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John Barton Payne

John Barton Payne

27th United States Secretary of the Interior
In office
March 15, 1920 – March 4, 1921
Preceded by Franklin Knight Lane
Succeeded by Albert B. Fall

Born January 26 1855(1855-01-26)
Pruntytown, Virginia (now West Virginia), U.S.
Died January 24 1935 (aged 79)
Political party Democratic
Profession Politician, Lawyer, Judge

John Barton Payne (January 26, 1855 – January 24, 1935) was United States Secretary of the Interior from 1920 through 1921 under Woodrow Wilson.

Born in Pruntytown, in what is now West Virginia, Payne was an attorney and longtime Chicago Democratic politician. Admitted to the bar in 1876 in West Virginia, Payne entered politics five years later as the chairman of the Preston County Democratic Party. He moved to Chicago in 1883, and was elected as a local judge in 1893. After resigning from that post in 1898, he was a senior partner in Winston, Payne, Strawn and Shaw. (A successor firm still exists today.) He was president of Chicago's South Park Board from 1911 to 1924, when Edward J. Kelly, later mayor of Chicago, succeeded him. He married Jennie Byrd in 1913. (She died in 1919.) After the outbreak of World War I, Payne went to Washington, D.C., to act as counsel for the Emergency Fleet Corporation and the national railroad administration. From 1919 through his appointment to Wilson's cabinet in February 1920, Payne was chairman of the U.S. Shipping Board. From October 1921 until his death, Payne was chairman of the American Red Cross. He died of pneumonia, following an operation for an appendicitis at 1:06 a.m. January 24 1935, two days before his 80th birthday — just early enough for an Associated Press obituary to run in the Chicago Tribune.

Known for his work for the Red Cross, Payne's use of the South Park Board to solidify the position of the Chicago Democratic Party has much less noted. Payne tried to bring volunteers and paid staffers of the American Red Cross, and also sent the organization in a new direction, organizing it to support local welfare efforts during both the deflationary period after World War I and the early years of the Depression.

Payne's donation of 50 paintings in 1919 and $100,000 in 1932 led to the founding of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond, Virginia.

In World War II the United States liberty ship SS John Barton Payne was named in his honor.


  • John B. Payne, Ex-Member of the Cabinet, Dead, Chicago Tribune, p. 1, Jan. 24, 1935
  • American Red Cross website
Preceded by
Franklin Knight Lane
United States Secretary of the Interior
March 15, 1920 – March 4, 1921
Succeeded by
Albert Bacon Fall
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "John_Barton_Payne". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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