Frank W. Payne is a legend in the history of First Baptist Church of Kennedy Heights and in the Cincinnati jazz scene. Frank moved to Kennedy Heights in 1954, lived in Silverton for some years and is again living in KH. Frank is 92 and his wife, Louise, is 90. Louise taught at Taft High School for her teaching career. They have been married for 44 years.
At the age of 6, Frank began taking piano lessons. He attended public schools in Covington, KY; Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee; Paris School of Music , Covington, KY; Cosmopolitan School of Music, Cincinnati; and the University of Cincinnati.
He formed his own group, The Frankie Payne Trio; performing on WLW-T, WZIP radio and many venues in the city. During his career he jammed with artists Duke Ellington and members of his band, Ben Webster, Sonny Greer, Eddie “Lockjaw” Davis, Frank Foster, Rosemary Clooney, among many others. He has played at many jazz clubs and hotels around Cincinnati. He served on the trustee board of Local #1, a musicians union, for 25 years and received his 50 year pin from that organization “quite a while ago”.
Frank was Associate Musician at First Baptist Church of Kennedy Heights for 42 years and Minister of Music at First Baptist Church of Covington, KY for many years. He organized a youth choir and a men’s choir at Kennedy Heights First Baptist and conducted several choral ensembles. He continues to play on occasion at churches throughout the area.
Prior to entering the military, Frank was the court messenger at the Federal 6th Circuit Court. After his discharge, he returned to the Court. He was appointed Associate Librarian in 1954 by then Circuit Judge Potter Stewart, later associate justice of the United States Supreme Court. He was appointed Senior Librarian in 1971. He was the only black who has held that position in any U.S. District Court of Appeals. Judges and attorneys held him in high regard for the manner in which he worked and the expertise of his knowledge of the law.
He retired from the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit as Court Librarian in 1984, serving the Court for over 30 years. He was honored with a ceremony and reception, previously bestowed only on a retiring judge.
Although he was well respected for his work with the court and enjoyed a fulfilling career there, his first love has always been with music. The schedule that he kept was a demanding one, working every night of the week in clubs and hotels, a Sunday a.m. radio show, then one or two church services and a Sunday matinee. Looking back, he realizes he lost out on family life and regrets he didn’t realize that at the time.
Mr. Payne has received awards from the Collective Empowerment Group Business Excellence Award, 2013 and the William Lawless Jones Award from UC College- Conservatory of Music Jazz Studies, 2007.
He has special memories of playing on a Ken-Sil adult softball team. He noted that they sometimes played against a youth team of Ken-Sil, “they usually won.” Bowling is a sport he thoroughly enjoys. He and his wife have played in a league for many years.
Asked if he would accommodate a request for playing the piano, he readily agreed. To those of us who don’t know him, it is truly our loss that we did not enjoy the pleasure of his music playing.
Interviewed April 18, 2014 with Christine Schumacher