JSU mourns the loss of Alyne Payton, mother of alums Walter and Eddie Payton

Alyne Payton, the mother of the late Walter Payton, at an event in 2007. (Milbert O. Brown / Chicago Tribune / May 9, 2013)

Alyne Payton, the mother of the late Walter Payton, at an event in 2007. (Milbert O. Brown / Chicago Tribune / May 9, 2013)

By Fred Mitchell
Chicago Tribune
May 9, 2013
Sunday figures to be a particularly somber Mother’s Day for the Payton family.

Alyne Payton, the 87-year-old mother of the late Hall of Fame Bears running back Walter Payton, passed away last Sunday night following an extended illness. Her funeral is Saturday in Columbia, Miss.Before her famous son became known to millions as “Sweetness,” Alyne Payton was the original version.

“She will be buried next to my father and with Walter. We are going to bury Walter’s ashes with her. That’s what she wanted,” Eddie Payton, the older brother of Walter, said.

Alyne Payton was the devoted matriarch of the family who provided guidance, integrity, spirituality and character after growing up during our nation’s most racially oppressive era in the deep South.

“She grew up in a small community called Harmony (Mississippi). It was a typical African-American community for that time in 1926, the year she was born,” Eddie said. “She grew up working in the fields, picking cotton, chopping wood. She started doing domestic work when she was like 12. It was kind of typical of the times. I mean, there weren’t a lot of opportunities. She went to school in the community and eventually stumbled upon my dad and the rest is history.”

While Walter would go on to gain the greater notoriety, Eddie also played professional football for five years as a running back and kick returner for the Browns, Lions, Chiefs and Vikings. On Dec. 17, 1977, Payton returned both a kickoff and a punt for a touchdown for the Lions against the Vikings. He went on to become a very successful men’s and women’s golf coach at Jackson State, his alma mater. He is forever grateful for the sacrifices his mother made for the entire family.

“She was totally dedicated to the three of us: Walter, Pam and me,” he said. “She made sure we got a good education. We learned the value of hard work and she also taught us how to save. We were in church all day on Sunday like most people. And we went to Vacation Bible School in the summer. We sang in the youth choir. She had a dream for her kids, and she was willing to put her dreams aside to make sure we would have a future. …

“She was the first person on her family’s side to build her own house. Most of the family thought she was out of her gourd when she got the plans for this house … and she made a reality out of it.

“She was very proud, as any parent could be, that she had three kids in college, all at the same time, all on scholarships. Pam played in the band. And then two of those kids would leave college from a football scholarship and go into professional football and make a half-way decent career out of that. We know how she worked two or three jobs to give us things that most people take for granted.

“It gave us all of the joy in the world to accomplish some things that she had only heard about and read about. I think our greatest motivation was to make our parents happy. Not to make a bunch of money, but to do well. She gave up so much in life to give us a chance.”

Walter died on Nov. 1, 1999, following complications from a rare liver disease at the age of 45. Alyne Payton, who had lost her husband Edward in 1979 after he suffered an aneurysm, was naturally heartbroken.

“Walter was her baby,” Eddie said. “And I don’t know if she ever really got over that. There’s no parent who wants to bury their children. It should be the other way around. “

The Payton family also will try to remember the good times on this Mother’s Day.

“Walter, Pam and I were all at Jackson State at the same time. Every weekend there was a reunion for our family. Everyone brought a bunch of chairs and we were tail-gating before tail-gating was popular,” Eddie said with a laugh.

“She was a part of the Chicago family,” Eddie said. “She enjoyed those years Walter was in Chicago. She loved us and her grandchildren. She didn’t get cheated.”fmitchell@tribune.com


Visitation and memorial services wil be held from 6-8 p.m. May 10 at Black’s  Chapel Church, 3425 W. Robinson St. in Jackson (601-922-5090). Payton’s body will lie in state at Owens Chapel Baptist Church, 1223 Martin Luther King Dr. in Columbia (601-736-6493) from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. May 11, followed by a burial at Resthaven Cemetery in Columbia.

In lieu of flowers, the Payton family requests that donations be made to the Payton Family Foundation, 118 Woodland Hills Blvd., Madison, Miss., 39110.


Editor’s note: Jackson State University makes efforts to acknowledge the passing of people who have had a significant impact on the history of university.  


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