Charles T. Payne

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Charles T. Payne
Charles Payne.jpg
Payne greets his grandnephew President Barack Obama in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, on the 65th anniversary of D-Day
Birth nameCharles Thomas Payne
BornFebruary 16, 1925
Peru, Kansas, U.S.
DiedAugust 1, 2014(2014-08-01) (aged 89)
Chicago, Illinois
AllegianceUnited States
Service/branchUnited States Army
Years of service1943–1945
Unit89th Infantry Division
Battles/warsWorld War II
Spouse(s)Melanie Payne
Other workUniversity of Chicago Library
Known forMaternal great-uncle of US President Barack Obama

Charles Thomas Payne (February 16, 1925 – August 1, 2014) was an American veteran who served in the U.S. military during World War II as a member of the U.S. Army's 89th Infantry Division[1][2] that liberated Ohrdruf, a sub-camp of the Buchenwald concentration camp[3][4][5] when he was age 20. A brother of Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, Payne was former President Barack Obama's great uncle and was mentioned in Obama's speeches, including the one given in 2009 commemorating the anniversary of D-Day.[6]

Obama has often described Payne's role in liberating Ohrdruf forced labor camp.[7] There was brief media attention when Obama mistakenly identified the camp as Auschwitz during the campaign.[8] In 2009, Payne spoke about this experience:

Ohrdruf was in that string of towns going across, south of Gotha and Erfurt. Our division was the first one in there. When we arrived there were no German soldiers anywhere around that I knew about. There was no fighting against the Germans, no camp guards. The whole area was overrun by people from the camp dressed in the most pitiful rags, and most of them were in a bad state of starvation.[9]

Payne appeared in the visitor's gallery at the Democratic National Convention in Denver, Colorado, when his great-nephew was nominated for president.[10] He was the assistant director of the University of Chicago Library.[7] Payne died on August 1, 2014, aged 89.[11][12] On August 5, 2009, Obama visited the former Buchenwald concentration camp near Weimar, Germany, to learn more about the history of the site and of the experiences of his great uncle. In his speech, Obama said, he heard from this place yet as he was a boy - from Charles T. Payne.[13] Payne was longtime close friends and shared the same dormitory for six years with the former Vice President and Premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan), Dr. Lien Chan.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tapper, Jake (2008-05-29). "WWII Vet Fires at Conservative Bloggers Re: Obama's Great Uncle Charlie". ABC News Blogs. Archived from the original on 2012-10-17.
  2. ^ The 89th Infantry Division, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
  3. ^ Obama kin recalls liberating Nazi camp Archived 2008-08-21 at the Wayback Machine Great-uncle was appalled by what he witnessed July 23, 2008 Associated Press
  4. ^ Carla K. Johnson Obama's great-uncle recalls liberating Nazi camp July 22, 2008 Associated Press
  5. ^ Profile: Obama's great-uncle Charles Payne June 5, 2009 BBC News
  6. ^ Steve Chaggaris Morning Bulletin: Friday, June 5, 2009 June 5, 2009 CBS News
  7. ^ a b Johnson, Carla K. (July 22, 2008). "Obama's great-uncle recalls liberating Nazi camp". Boston Globe. Boston, Massachusetts. Associated Press. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  8. ^ Major Garrett (May 27, 2008). "Obama Campaign Scrambles to Correct the Record on Uncle's War Service". Fox News. Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  9. ^ "Spiegel Interview With Obama's Great-Uncle : 'I Was Horrified by Lengths Men Will Go to Mistreat Other Men'". Speigel. May 26, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  10. ^ "Democrats salute Obama's great uncle". Jewish Telegraphic Agency. August 28, 2008. Archived from the original on February 2, 2009. Retrieved January 31, 2009.
  11. ^ Barack Obama’s great-uncle dies at 89; Charles Payne was WWII vet, U. of C. library official Archived August 12, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Chicago Sun-Times, Maureen O'Donnell and Jon Seidel, August 11, 2014
  12. ^ "Charles Payne's Obituary". Chicago Tribune. August 10, 2014. Retrieved September 21, 2017.
  13. ^ Obama, Barak (2009-06-05). "Statement von US-Präsident Barack Obama belm Gedenkstätte Buchenwald" [Statement by US President Barack Obama at the Buchenwald Memorial]. (in German). Retrieved 2020-05-25.
  14. ^ The China Post news staff (2009-11-16). "Lien, Obama meet at APEC summit". Archived from the original on 2009-11-18.

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