New York Times
John Payton, Lawyer Who Fought for Civil Rights, Dies at 65
"John Payton, who as president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund guided it to several major victories before the Supreme Court, died on Thursday in Baltimore. He was 65 and lived in Washington…. Named president in 2008, Mr. Payton was the defense fund’s sixth leader since it became a separate entity from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1940. He had been active in the civil rights movement since his days at Pomona College in the 1960s."
John Payton, a lawyer who argued bias cases before Supreme Court, dies at 65
Mr. Payton’s appointment to the fund in 2008 capped a five-decade career devoted to the protection of minorities. During the early 1990s, he was the District’s corporation counsel, or chief legal officer. The position is now called the D.C. attorney general.
At his death, Mr. Payton was president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, a civil rights legal organization.
National Law Journal
Payton "surely resides in the very first rank of civil rights lawyers of his generation," said former Solicitor General Seth Waxman, now at Wilmer, in a statement. "John was also a unique lawyer: at once a focused, hard-nosed litigator, a mentor, and a genuinely compassionate human being."
Black Entertainment Television
“John Payton was one of the greatest civil rights lawyers our nation has ever had and our world has ever known,” said NAACP President and CEO Benjamin Todd Jealous. “From defending affirmative action to fighting mass incarcerations to protecting voting rights, John defended civil rights gains and won civil rights victories.”
The Washington Post
“Payton, the LDF's sixth president and director-counsel, leaves a gaping hole in the fight for civil rights.”
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Wade Henderson, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, issued the following statement after the passing of John Payton, Esq., a longtime member of its Executive Committee and the President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc.:
“John Payton was a warrior for justice and equality. He was a lawyer’s lawyer and an insightful activist. John was comfortable in the courtroom, the board room, or the community setting – and was persuasive and effective wherever his analysis and skills were needed. He cherished his role as President and Director-Counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. He was arguably a 21st Century Thurgood Marshall. The highest compliment I could pay him as an advocate is that he could run with the foxes and he could run with the hounds. To say he will be sorely missed is an understatement of the highest order. We at The Leadership Conference have lost a dear friend and words alone cannot adequately express the true magnitude of this loss.”
NAACP Legal Defense Fund
John Payton was “a tireless advocate for justice, equality, and opportunity…To the LDF staff and to a great many others, John was fearless – a guiding light, a brilliant advocate, a mentor and teacher who believed that American democracy thrives when it embraces all of our voices… Widely considered one of the country’s most skilled members of the Supreme Court bar, John Payton’s enduring legacy will be his commitment to a principle articulated by LDF’s founder, Charles Hamilton Houston. ‘What I am more concerned about,’ Houston said, ‘is that the Negro shall not be content simply with demanding an equal share in the existing system. It seems to me that his historical challenge is to make sure that the system [that] shall survive in the United States of America shall be a system which guarantees justice and freedom for everyone.’ LDF’s work will go on, in just the way that John would have wanted.”