Alderman killed in car crash

By BRENT MAZE,

Michael Hillie holds a special place for Ray Payne.

Hillie, who is serving his eighth term on the Newton Board of Aldermen, sees similarities of himself in Payne, who was elected to his first full term last year.

“As far as the aldermen that I’ve served with for 36 years, I’d have to rank Ray No. 1,” Hillie said. “I see a lot of me as a young man in Ray. He is the best and most passionate aldermen that I’ve served with. He will be missed.”

Payne, who served as Ward 4’s alderman in Newton for the past four years, died in a car crash on the night of April 17 driving home after being called into work in Corinth with Kansas City Southern Railway. He was 41.

Details of the crash were still not available Monday afternoon, as the Mississippi Highway Patrol was unable to confirm his death or the crash that claimed his life pending an investigation.

Ward 3 Alderman Eric McCalphia was trying to call Payne on the night of April 17 to let him know what happened at the Board of Aldermen that afternoon. However, he was unable to reach him.

“Ray always wanted to know what we did at a meeting he couldn’t attend,” McCalphia said. “Ray and I were pretty close. It was just a shock to everyone. He really had an impact on this city and the school district especially. Everyone knew him and loved him.”

City Attorney Robert Logan remembered when Ray came on as an alderman four years ago and saw a tremendous change from then until now.

“Ray showed tremendous growth from when he first came on the board of aldermen,” Logan said. “He was a tremendous advocate for youth of our city. I was proud of the way that he represented the city. He was a visionary. He wanted to see Newton grow, and he believed that we could be a better city. He will surely be missed.”

While Alderman Bob Bridges didn’t get to know him as well has his wife, who retired as a longtime educator in the Newton school system, he enjoyed serving with Payne over the last year.

“One thing that you could always say about Ray is that he was passionate about Newton and school system,” Bridges said. “Ray always wanted what was best for the city, and he really fought for the youth of Newton and really wanted them to have things to do here at home. I didn’t know him as long as other aldermen did, but he’s become a good friend.”

Mayor Murray Weems echoed similar sentiments.

“Ray was a good friend and great leader for the city,” Weems said.

Ray is survived by his wife, Natasha, and five children. Two children, Rahdeja and Brandon, will be graduating next month from Newton High School.