PAYNE, LAWRENCE O. (11 Oct. 1892-26 Sept. 1959), black lawyer and politician who moved from traditional Republican support to an independent stance, was born in Columbus, Ohio, son of Robert and Madaline (Wittington) Payne. During WORLD WAR I he served in the Army in France and came to Cleveland after the war. Graduating from Cleveland Preparatory School (1922) he received a LL.B. from John Marshall Law School in 1923. Payne was admitted to the Ohio bar and appointed Cleveland's first African American assistant police prosecutor.
Payne's election to city council in 1929 came when the old black leadership was waning. Ward leaders as councilmen, the black "Triumvirate" of LEROY BUNDY, CLAYBORNE GEORGE, and Payne significantly increased their power and political patronage by holding the balance of power. In return for supporting DANIEL MORGAN as city manager in 1930, the councilmen won the admission of blacks to the School of Nursing and as interns at City Hospital, as well as black appointments to city offices. In 1932, the councilmen withheld support for the Republican candidate for council president until all three were given committee chairmanships.
In council, Payne was chair of the welfare committee and supported a larger police force, a permanent policewomen's bureau, the separation of first-time and habitual offenders, and enlargement of the correction farms. Payne was appointed to the State Parole Board in 1938; and in 1940, with WILLIAM O. WALKER, formed P. W. Publishing Co., publishing the CLEVELAND CALL & POST. Payne resigned from the Parole Board in 1945 and returned to private practice. In 1924 he married Maybelle Cross. They had no children. Payne died in Cleveland and was buried in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY.