Peace Corps' former director Carolyn Payton dies at age 75

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Carolyn R. Payton: October 11, 1977-December 18, 1978 : Payton: Peace Corps' former director Carolyn Payton dies at age 75

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, July 14, 2001 - 9:50 pm: Edit Post

Peace Corps' former director Carolyn Payton dies at age 75

Peace Corps' former director Carolyn Payton dies at age 75

By LOUIE ESTRADA The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - Carolyn Payton, a retired Howard University director of counseling services who was the first woman and first black director of the Peace Corps, died April 11 at her home in Washington after a heart attack. She was 75.

President Jimmy Carter nominated Payton, a veteran Peace Corps staffer and trained psychologist, to head the volunteer assistance organization in 1977. She began her 13-month tenure with an acceptance speech that reaffirmed the Peace Corps' mission of meeting the humanitarian needs of host countries and called for increased funding and a concerted effort to recruit blacks and other minorities. Her credentials at the time included a deep understanding of the workings of the Peace Corps, where she began as a field assessment officer in 1964. She accompanied a group of volunteers to Puerto Rico, developed appraisals to select trainees preparing to serve in foreign countries and served as a Peace Corps selection officer.

She became an overseas country director, supervising 130 volunteers involved in education projects on eight islands in the eastern Caribbean. During her tenure, she was one of two women who were country directors.

Fulfilling the Peace Corps' mandate as director proved to be a challenge, plagued by interagency infighting and lack of political clout. Her goals of increasing technical skills training, developing good volunteer assignments, upgrading staff support and improving language training ran into budget constraints.

She clashed with Sam Brown, then director of ACTION, which was created in 1971 to administer the Peace Corps, Volunteers in Service to America and other volunteer service programs. Payton resigned in November 1978, citing, in part, policy differences between ACTION and the Peace Corps.

She rejoined Howard University, where she had been an assistant professor of psychology from 1959 to 1964. After leaving the Peace Corps, she was Howard's dean of counseling and career development. She served as director of university counseling services and helped develop an internship-training center before retiring in 1995.

Payton was a native of Norfolk, Va. She graduated from Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C. She received a master's degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate in counseling and school administration from Columbia University.

She was a professor of psychology at Livingstone College in Salisbury, N.C., Virginia State University and what is now Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University.

Survivors include a sister, Jean Robertson Scott of Washington.

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