BLOOMINGDALE - Douglas W. Payne, 58, of 141 Moose Pond Lane, Bloomingdale, died at Calvary Hospital in New York City on July 29, 2009 following a two-year battle with lung cancer. He bore his illness with tremendous strength and grace, still working and walking in the woods until a month before he died.
Doug was born in Neptune, N.J., the oldest of four children born to Dr. Douglas and Helen Payne. He spent his childhood on the Jersey Shore and attended The Pingry School, where he was captain of the basketball team. Doug graduated from Williams College.
After college, Doug spent a number of years in Boston and New York City as a freelance writer, authoring such books as "Where Have They Gone?" and writing a sports column for Andy Warhol's Interview magazine. By pure chance, Doug took a position in the early 1980s with a human rights organization based in New York City, which completely changed the direction of his life. With no previous experience in the field, Doug used this opportunity to become a self-taught expert on Latin America and the Caribbean. He gained international recognition when he took a delegation, including then-Mayor of New York Ed Koch and Lt. Gov. Richard Ravitch, to Nicaragua in 1987. Doug testified several times before Congress as an expert on Latin America.
As a freelancer in the 1990s, Doug began consulting for the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service as an Asylum Officer. There, he evaluated requests for political asylum based on his extensive research and detailed knowledge of the politically oppressed groups and social conditions in Latin America and the Caribbean. He was frequently called upon to testify in asylum hearings based on his expertise, and it was known that with Doug Payne as a witness, the case was as strong as it could possibly be. Doug provided training to many of the current asylum officers, and was held in highest esteem as the kind of man who worked tirelessly on behalf of the oppressed and disenfranchised.
Doug also worked with the Socialist International Party as a writer and consultant, drafting many of their official statements over the past 15 years. Doug was an early voice in the organization for action on climate change and global warming. His last work for them was a project detailing the effects of climate change, of which he was especially proud. Doug was recognized by his friends and colleagues in the International for his compassion, his deep understanding of international politics and his sharp wit.
In 2003, Doug and his wife Nancy bought a home in the Adirondacks, which opened yet a new chapter in his life. He became an avid hiker and outdoorsman, and taught himself how to walk out his back door and bushwhack his way virtually anywhere in the McKenzie Wilderness. He also had time to pursue his love of blues and rock and roll, and to write poetry after a hiatus of some 20 years. He has been a featured speaker at Paul Smith's College.
Doug will be remembered as someone who dedicated his intelligence, integrity and commitment to the cause of justice. In the end, it was not in the spotlight but in the trenches that Doug relentlessly gave of himself and his knowledge to speak truth to power. He was a brilliant man and a critical thinker who fought for human rights, who loved his family, and who gave generously of his time, money and expertise.
Doug is survived by his beloved wife Nancy; his sisters: Sharon Elrod and Ellen Payne; his brother Roger Payne; and two nieces and two nephews.
In lieu of flowers, contributions in Doug's memory may be made to the North Country Mission of Hope, PO Box 2520, Plattsburgh, NY 12901 and the Tri-Lakes Humane Society, 255 George Lapan Memorial Highway, Saranac Lake, NY 12983.