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John Payton - Personal Tributes

Sagehen Intercollegiate Baseball 1965

1965 Pomona College Freshman Baseball Team, John Payton bottom left.Courtesy Mike Riskas.

Personal tributes may be submitted for this page by e-mail to

I believe John Payton was an alum. He was a giant in the legal community in D.C. and will be missed by all the lawyers who have worked and learned from him. I represented the United States in several cases in the Supreme Court where John was on the same side. He was always brilliant, gracious, and most effective in getting his point across.

Teresa Kwong

I often think back on John Payton's keynote address to our class at commencement ceremonies in 2005. His speech, thoughtfully and eloquently, combined critical reflection on the hard realities of contemporary domestic and global relations with a challenge to us, as graduates, to locate, employ, and disseminate a vital optimism and will for change in the world around us. Rooted in the practical knowledge and experience of struggle and defeat as well as triumph, his call to act seemed simultaneously bold and manageable, inspirational and down-to-earth. The loss of John Payton amplifies this call--and the need to attend to it--for our class and all others.

Ian MacMillen '05

I received information regarding John Payton's death today.  My mind goes back to 1971 when John was working to increase the number of Black students in the colleges. I know John convinced Scripps College to accept a young, African American, first generation, excrutiatingly shy girl for admission.  My experience at Scripps changed my life and world view in so many ways. My experiences ranged from outstanding to painful and I learned from them all. I thank John for helping to open that door to Scripps. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family. America and the world has lost a great one.

Wanda Clay (Majors)
Scripps '75

With both of us named John, to me he was always just Payton; my best friend in college.  He and I were roommates at several times (once along with a third John--Crowley).  So I remember the person behind the famous lawyer: a really funny, friendly, wise and generous guy.  He was always a pleasure to be with, and incredible in the breadth of his knowledge.  And I remember, even after he became very prominent, he was always friendly and warm to the little guy-his regular server at Starbucks, the doorman at his apartment building.  Perhaps "great guy"  is a trite expression, but I can't think of a better description of Payton. I'll really miss him.

Shapard (aka John Shapard. Pomona '68).


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