Volunteer knows life is complete

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 13, 2004

They’re not many people who can say their life is complete, but Charles Payne, a retired coach, teacher and children’s worker can.

Payne has been working 12 noon to 4 p.m., Monday through Friday, at The Old Depot Museum for the past three years.

“I’ve been blessed in my career,” Payne said. “I’ve done everything I ever wanted to do. I’ve coached, taught history, dealt with antiquities and been a tour guide (here at The Old Depot Museum). My life is complete,” he said.

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Payne loves history – and has as long as he can remember.

A native Selmian, Payne graduated with a bachelor’s from Troy State University and a master’s

from Livingston (now University of West Alabama).

Payne said he had a college history teacher from Germany who not only taught but lived history, making it come alive for his students. It was that teacher who confirmed Payne’s interest in history.

History has been the continuing thread in his career.

Payne’s first 10 years professionally were spent coaching and teaching in the Linden schools. Then he moved to the staff of the Methodist Children’s Home in Selma where he served as director of activities – on campus and off campus, as he describes it – until retirement in 1998.

Three years ago, The Old Depot Museum curator Jean Martin asked him if he would be interested in serving as a tour guide in the museum.

Payne said he jumped at the chance.

Payne directs tours and receives visitors and phone calls.

He is very much in a lifelong learning mode and considers each visitor a prospective source of new historical information.

“We have visitors from all over the United States and Canada and the world, and each one is able to tell me something I did not know. As we talk, they tell me something of the history of the place from which they come, adding to my own knowledge of history,” he said. “Some even tell me things about Selma and the South that I did not already know, and I’ve lived basically all my life in Selma,” he added. “I learned from them things that you don’t read about in history books.”

The most frequent questions that come from visitors, he said, relate to what’s it like to live in Selma and the South. “They want to know,” he said.

Payne is especially interested in the Civil War and has great appreciation for

the diaries contained in the museum’s archives.

Payne is very impressed with the two staff members – Jean Martin and the associate curator, Earl Hopkins. “They know so much,” he said. “There’s almost no question that anyone can ask about Selma that Mrs. Martin does not know,” he said.

Over the years Payne has also volunteered in other venues, such as church, including Elkdale and First Baptist. He has taught Sunday school in both churches. Also he participates in fund-raisers for The Old Depot Museum.