Thelma Payton, the former First Lady at Tuskegee University in Alabama who had a 30-year career in social work, died last week at the Gulf Coast Medical Center in Fort Myers, Florida. She was 81 years old.
A native of Evanston, Illinois, Payton earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology at Tennessee State University in Nashville. She than enrolled at the Graduate School of Social Work at Columbia University in New York City, where she earned a master’s degree in 1959. It was there that she met her future husband, Benjamin Franklin Payton, who later served as president of Benedict College and then for 28 years as president of Tuskegee University.
In addition to her duties at Tuskegee, Thelma Payton served as a professional in the fields of psychiatric social work, family practice, and social work education.