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James E. Payne

Lawyer James E. Payne was born on March 3, 1968 in Port Arthur, Texas to James C. Payne and Jessie Payne. He attended Port Arthur Lincoln High School in Port Arthur, where he played on the basketball team, winning the 1986 UIL Championship game. He then earned his B.S. degree in political science with honors from the University of Houston in 1989. He earned his J.D. degree from the University of Houston Law Center in 1993.

Payne interned for Florida Congressman William Lehman in 1989. In 1993, Payne was hired as an associate lawyer at Vinson & Elkins L.L.P. Wanting to gain more trial experience, he left the firm to join the Provost Umphrey Law Firm, L.L.P. There, Payne practiced products liability, industrial work site accidents, automobile accident, and premises liability law. He was certified in personal injury trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, and as a civil trial advocate and a pretrial practice advocate by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. In one of his more high profile cases, Matthews Smith et al. v. Star Enterprise et al., Payne argued on behalf of 250 plaintiffs against Texaco’s discriminatory employee practices. The plaintiffs received a $9 million settlement. This case, along with a number of others, allowed Payne to become a certified member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum. In addition to his legal work, he served as a youth minister at Cathedral of Faith Baptist Church in Beaumont, Texas, where he organized the Sunday school program R.E.A.L. School for Young Adults.

Payne was featured on the “Texas Super Lawyers” list by Thomson Reuters in 2003, continuing to make appearances on the list for many years. He was also named one of their “Top 100: Houston Super Lawyers” in 2013. Payne was featured on the US News and World Report “Best Lawyer” list from 2006 to 2017. He also organized “The Buy 90 Campaign for BOBs (Black Operated Businesses)” in Southeast Texas. A life member of the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Payne served as Grand Sire/national President of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity.

Payne and his wife, Tracie Yvonne Wilson, have three children: Taryn, Joshua and Caleb.

James E. Payne was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 3, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.140

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/3/2016

Last Name

Payne

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

E.

Occupation
Schools

Franklin Elementary School

Memorial High School

Woodrow Wilson Early College High School

University of Houston

University of Houston Law Center

First Name

James

Birth City, State, Country

Port Arthur

HM ID

PAY08

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere He Can Golf

Favorite Quote

I Play To Win.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Texas

Birth Date

3/3/1968

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Houston

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak, Rice

Short Description

Lawyer James E. Payne (1968 - ) worked as a personal injury lawyer for Provost Umphrey Law Firm, L.L.P. since 1995, and successfully argued a $9 million settlement in the case of Matthews Smith et al. v. Star Enterprise et al.

Employment

Dairy Queen

University of Houston

Congressman William Lehmont

Vinson & Elkins LLP

Provost Umphrey Law Firm LLP

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of James E. Payne's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - James E. Payne lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - James E. Payne describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - James E. Payne talks about his mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - James E. Payne describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - James E. Payne describes his father's occupation

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - James E. Payne recalls how his parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - James E. Payne describes his parents' personalities and who he takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - James E. Payne lists his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - James E. Payne describes his early community in Port Arthur, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - James E. Payne describes his earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - James E. Payne talks about the racial demographics of Port Arthur, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - James E. Payne describes his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - James E. Payne remembers being injured by a television explosion

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - James E. Payne recalls his family's lawsuit against Magnavox

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - James E. Payne describes the result of the lawsuit

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - James E. Payne talks about lawyer Thomas A. Peterson's influence on his decision to practice law

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - James E. Payne remembers playing basketball at Abraham Lincoln High School in Port Arthur, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - James E. Payne describes his basketball team's training regime

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - James E. Payne recalls the racial discrimination faced by the basketball team

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - James E. Payne describes his extracurricular activities

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - James E. Payne recalls his favorite teachers at Abraham Lincoln High School

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - James E. Payne recalls his early interest in pursuing law

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - James E. Payne remembers playing basketball at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - James E. Payne recalls being chosen for a congressional internship

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - James E. Payne remembers the death of his father

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - James E. Payne describes his internship with Congressman William Lehman

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - James E. Payne recalls his decision to attended University of Houston Law Center in Houston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - James E. Payne describes his organizational involvement in college

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - James E. Payne talks about his experience with police brutality

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - James E. Payne recalls the results of the Rodney King trial

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - James E. Payne describes the racial demographics of his law class

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - James E. Payne remembers racial discrimination from his law school professors

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - James E. Payne describes his involvement in moot court competitions

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - James E. Payne recalls his first impressions of Vinson and Elkins LLP

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - James E. Payne remembers leaving Vinson and Elkins LLP for Provost Umphrey LLP in Beaumont, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - James E. Payne recalls being underestimated in court because of his race situations

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - James E. Payne remembers the Matthews Smith, et al. v. Texaco, Inc., et al. discrimination case

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - James E. Payne recalls results of the Matthews Smith, et al. v. Texaco, Inc., et al. trial

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - James E. Payne talks about his board certifications

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - James E. Payne describes the role of race in his representation of clients

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - James E. Payne talks about discriminatory practices in jury removal challenges

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - James E. Payne describes his bar association memberships

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - James E. Payne describes the Buy 90 Campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - James E. Payne recalls the public response to the Buy 90 Program

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - James E. Payne talks about the impact of integration on black businesses, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - James E. Payne talks about the impact of integration on black businesses, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - James E. Payne recalls meeting and marrying his wife

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - James E. Payne remembers the formation of CUSH Magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - James E. Payne shares his thoughts on prejudice and racial bias

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - James E. Payne talks about his reasons for ending the distribution of CUSH Magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - James E. Payne describes Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - James E. Payne talks about influential members of Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - James E. Payne describes the differences between Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity and other organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - James E. Payne talks about Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity's philanthropic approach

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - James E. Payne remembers being elected as grand sire of the Boule

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - James E. Payne recalls his accomplishments as grand sire of the Boule, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - James E. Payne recalls his accomplishments as grand sire of the Boule, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - James E. Payne shares his plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - James E. Payne talks about his youth ministry

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - James E. Payne describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - James E. Payne reflects upon his life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - James E. Payne describes his family

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - James E. Payne talks about his personal philosophy for success

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - James E. Payne reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - James E. Payne narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$7

DATitle
James E. Payne describes his internship with Congressman William Lehman
James E. Payne talks about his board certifications
Transcript
Okay, so tell us about that. Now you, did you like, spend like a semester there or a quarter or what was it?$$I spent the semester there, I was there in the spring of nineteen eighty- spring of 1989, I worked for Congressman Bill Lehman [William Lehman] of Dade County, Florida [Miami-Dade County, Florida]. Mickey--Congressman Lehman was, was very good at making sure that we worked for a variety of people. And, and got the real experience of, of, of congressional interns, he didn't want us to come up there and be pages. Which is you know just going around taking petitions to get signatures; he wanted us to get into the congressional mindset. And, and basically work like a legislative assistant would of worked. And so and they, he did that, I mean Congressman Bill Lehman, when I got there, I immediately did work like the legislative assistants would do. I was meeting with the constituents, I was writing letters back to his, his people within his community. I became the liaison for the Haitian African American, at that time black versus Haitian disputes with the, the Coast Guards [U.S. Coast Guard]. Back in 1989 they were deporting Haitians who were coming close to the sou- to the United States. They would, they intercept them, the congressional--the Coast Guards would intercept them and send them back to Haiti. Well of course when they intercept them, sent them back to Haiti, they would die on their way back and so there was a fight between the United States and the Haitian group as to what you should do with those Haitians that were coming over. They didn't really have anyone in my congressman's area in Dade County, Florida who speak, who could speak on that issue. And I became the person to deal with that issue with the Coast Guard and Haitians. Now I'm twenty years old, twenty-one years old I'm having to go to Edison High School [Miami Edison Senior High School, Miami, Florida] which is the high school where the Haitians and the, and the blacks were having interactions. I'm dealing with a lot of the Haitians elected officials and both I, at that time it was Ba- Baby Doc [Jean-Claude Duvalier] in, in, in authority. My congressman worked for the, he was the federa- chairman of the Federal Aviation Committee [Federal Aviation Administration] which was during the Eastern [Eastern Air Lines] strike. So we were having the Eastern strike at that time, I'm having to fly back and forth to Miami [Florida], I'm twenty years old, I understand Haitian government. I understand you know cons, the, the Coast Guard's interactions and I'm the go to person in [U.S.] Congress for Dade County, Florida. You can't ask for a better (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Probably the whole Haitian situation, you're probably the go- yeah.$$It was a great experience for me, I mean I'm, I remember flying to Marco Polo Hotel [Ramada Plaza Marco Polo Beach Resort, Miami, Florida] and I would fly back and forth you know almost every month. To meet with the Haitian officials, meet with the Coast Guards, come back and report to my congressman, here's where we are. And then when the congress of constituents would come up to meet with Congressman Lehman, I would be in the room. Because I'm the guy so although I'm twenty, I'm from Port Arthur, Texas, I, I never studied Haitian government, I'm now the go between. And it was an awesome, awesome experience for me, you know because when we, we had various bills that were put forth because I knew the bill, I would actually go to the various congress people. I remember talking with Tip O'Neill, Speaker Tip O'Neill, he called and you know I'm sitting on the phone talking to him like, "Oh my god I'm talking to Tip O'Neill" (laughter). But you know I knew the information, it was my bill, you know I wouldn't say it was my bill, but I drafted the thing. So (laughter) it was a great, great experience and, and I was coming from an area where Congressman Jack Brooks was very high in the judiciary on the, he was chairman of the judiciary committee [U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary]. And so my congressman, Congressman Bill Lehman and Congressman Jack Brooks had a good relationship. And, and because I was from Jefferson County [Texas], I could always go see Congressman Brooks. So he could always get me bypa- could bypass me to the people that I really need to talk to, so I start learning to play the Washington politics at twenty. Okay, I got this congressman, I got this chairman, this chairman can get me to this guy, then I can get somebody to review my bill or, or my congressman's bill. And then I figured out who the players are in Dade County, Florida that need to come up to help me sit through the congressional insight when they do the, the bill, bill review. So that I got the right players sitting at the table asking- answering the right questions, you just start playing politics. And that's the kind of experience I received at twenty years old.$$Yeah that's incredible (laughter) you think you know, it's scary too although, a twenty year old is given that kind of you know. But that's you know (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's Washington [D.C.].$$Yeah but, yeah we have--we often interview people that find themselves in a situation that they couldn't've imagined like just a year before. And here you are at a Dairy Queen--$$Yes.$$--flipping burgers and now you're like the Haitian go to person in Congress.$$Yes.$Tell us about--now, I have a note here that you received a NBTA certification, National Board of Trial Ad- Advocacy [National Board of Trial Advocacy], as a certified civil trial advocate. Now what does that mean and--?$$That's similar to the board certification by the Texas State board of certification [Texas Board of Legal Specialization] that means you have reached a level of excellence. You've tried a certain amount of cases and many times with Texas board of specialization you actually have to go to Austin [Texas] take another test. You'll see many times in whatever state you practice, they'll say you, you see a lawyers advertising saying, "Hey I can help you, I can help you." And then at the very bottom in real, real smart print it'll say, "Not board certified by the board of specialization." That's a requirement that says you have not reached that level of sus- specification. And I look at it like this, if you, you have a heart problem, you can go see an internal medicine or you can go see a cardiologist. You have a heart problem you go see a cardiologist 'cause they're specialized in cardiology. The same thing I see when it comes to personal injury, you can go see a lawyer, you have a personal injury. Or you can go see someone who specializes in personal injury. To me I'd go to someone who specializes. So I want to make sure I got certification and board certified because again I understand 90 percent of the lawyers are not board certified. But I need to be in that exclusive, exclusive group because if I'm gonna be competitive, I gotta se- I gotta be better. And so I made sure I was board certified not only personal injury, the national trial advocacy. I have board certification in civil trial, and then also have national board certification by civil trial of national board certification in pretrial litigation.$$Okay.$$So--$$Now all of this, in 2003 you're identified as a Texas Super Lawyer now what does this mean?$$That is a very, that was probably one of the biggest honors I've received since I've been practicing in that you are nominated by your peers. The lawyers in Texas decide who they recognize as the top 5 percent lawyers in the State of Texas. That is not something that you can buy into, they nominate and I have been recognized as a Texas Super Lawyer since nine- 2003, which is when they started Texas Super Lawyer. And I've been recognized every since, and in 2003 I'm not sure but I think I was probably the only African American in the State of Texas that received that designation in 2003. And I've had that designation ever since.