The University of Texas at Austin and the University Interscholastic League (UIL) honored James E. Payne, a partner in the Beaumont law firm Provost Umphrey on March 11. Payne received the first-ever Vice President’s UIL Excellence Award during the UIL Boys State Basketball Tournament in San Antonio.
Dr. Gregory J. Vincent, vice president for diversity and community engagement at UT Austin said, “We are pleased to honor James E. Payne with the inaugural Vice President’s UIL Award of Excellence. He has been an outstanding leader in Southeast Texas and has made his mark nationally as an exceptional leader of Sigma Pi Phi. His character, leadership and achievement reflect the goals of the UIL as they help young people strive for excellence.”
Payne was a UIL participant at Port Arthur Lincoln High School, where he played on the championship basketball team in 1986 under Coach James Gamble. In 2012 Payne was elected to serve as the youngest leader ever of Sigma Pi Phi one of the most prominent fraternal organizations in the nation. He led that organization, with more than 5,000 members, to take an active role in President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to address gaps faced by boys and young men of color. He is also active in the NAACP and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
Payne developed the nationally recognized Buy 90 Campaign which was designed to economically empower the African American community in Southeast Texas. He has been selected by Thomson Reuters for the Texas Super Lawyers list from 2003-2015 and also has been selected for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America every year from 2006-2016. Payne is highly sought after as a motivational speaker by many organizations, schools and churches.
He has said that he has carried what he learned on the basketball court from Coach Gamble and UIL competition with him throughout his academic and professional career.
Payne graduated second in his class at Port Arthur and completed his bachelor’s degree with honors, in three-and-a-half years, at the University of Houston. He earned his J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center in 1993.