William J. Payne was born in Charlotte, North Carolina to Mr. and Mrs. J.D. Payne on 19 September 1916. His early years were spent in Charlotte where he attended Elizabeth Gram mar, Alexander Graham Junior High and Central High schools.
He attended Clemson College, graduating in 1938 with a degree in Chemical Engineering. After graduation from college, young Bill Payne worked with his father and brother in the furniture business until 1940, when he joined the Army Air Corps. He completed his flight training at Barksdale Field, Louisiana and was assigned to the 20th Pursuit Group. Going overseas in 1942, Lt. Payne was assigned to the 52nd Fighter Group, and began flying the British-made Spitfires in the North Africa Theater of Operations.
By the end of World War II, then young Bill Payne had flown 163 combat missions in Africa and Sicily, and had attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel.
After being released from the Army Air Corps in 1946, Lt Col Payne returned to work as a furniture executive in the family business, Payne Furniture Company.
In 1948, Colonel (later General) Paul Younts recruited then Lieutenant Colonel Bill Payne to head up the North Carolina Air National Guard, which was federally recognized on 15 March 1948. At this point, Colonel Payne left his civilian job to become the full time military Commander of the North Carolina Air National Guard.
Between 1948 and the outbreak of the Korean conflict, Colonel Payne successfully led the NCANG in organizing both an operationally ready fighter unit as well as an aircraft control and, warning unit. In October 1950, Colonel Payne and the 156th Fighter Squadron were called to active duty. The 118th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron was called to active duty in January 1951.
During the Korean War, then Lieutenant Colonel Payne, served as Commander of the 123rd Fighter Bomber Group. Subsequently, he was assigned to Headquarters, 8th Fighter Bomber Group in Korea, becoming Deputy Group Commander in November 1951. He was further assigned as an Air Liaison Officer to the X Corps, US Army and Headquarters, 5th US Air Force. Prior to being released from active duty in August 1952, he served as Deputy Commander and Administrative Staff Officer of Detachment No I, 8th Fighter Bomber Wing. During his time in Korea, Lt Col Payne flew 13 combat missions in the F-80 Fighter Bomber aircraft.
In August 1952, Colonel Payne was released from active duty and returned to Charlotte to reassume command of the North Carolina Air National Guard.
From 1948 to 1950 and from 1952 to 1976, the driving force behind the North Carolina Air National Guard was William J. Payne or "Bill" as his friends and superior officers called him.
In 1953, Lieutenant Colonel Payne was promoted to Colonel and in 1961 he, was promoted to Brigadier General.
Through the many years that General Payne guided and directed the fortunes of an ever expand ing North Carolina Air National Guard, no one ever questioned his military acumen or his love and devotion to the NCANG units. After his family, the North Carolina Air National Guard was his first love and his life.
General Bill was a tough task master, but at the same time, was fair to a fault. He demanded quality of performance from all those he commanded. Honesty and integrity were h is hall marks and he would settle for nothing less from his subordinates. However, he had little tolerance for inefficiency or for those who might try to B.S. him. It was a well known fact that you could respectfully disagree with the General fl you had the facts and knew what you were talking about. If yo u didn't have your facts or act together, he would " eat you alive"
Behind every good general, there' s a woman. In General Bill's case, that was Peggy, the former Peggy Miller. She gave him and the North Carolina Air National Guard her full sup port. The General was also proud of his three children- Bi lly, who would became an Air Force Pilot and Colonel, Tommy who as a Master Sergeant serves as a Flight Engineer with the NCANG, and daughter, Marilyn Clapp. His three grandchildren are Michael Payne and Kelly and Christian Clapp.
Whether General " Bill " is to be remembered as the father of the North Carolina Air National Guard, or the tough one star general in the corner office who managed every aspect of the NCANG's existence, it cannot be denied that he was the driving force behind the development of one of the Outstanding Air Guard organizations the nation has ever known.
Whenever and wherever people talk about the North Carolina Air National Guard and its outstanding accomplishments, the name of Brigadier General William J. Payne always becomes part of the conversation. The legacy of leader ship left behind by General " Bill " has served and will continue to serve the North Carolina Air National Guard well.