Dr. Carolyn R. Payton, Former Peace Corps Director, Dies at Age 75
April 16, 2001WASHINGTON, D.C., April 16, 2001—Dr. Carolyn R. Payton, who served as the Peace Corps' eighth Director from 1977-78, died at her home in Washington, D.C., on April 11 after a heart attack at the age of 75.
Dr. Payton was the first female Director of the Peace Corps, and the first African American. As the Director, she believed strongly in reflecting America's diversity in the corps of Volunteers and worked tirelessly to convince young people that Peace Corps service would enrich their lives.
Dr. Payton first came to work for the Peace Corps in 1964. Later, she was named Country Director in the Eastern Caribbean, where she served until 1970. She was Director of Counseling at Washington, D.C.'s Howard University until she became the Director of the Peace Corps in 1977. After leaving the Peace Corps, Dr. Payton returned to Howard where she became Dean of Counseling and Career Development.
In 1981, as the Peace Corps was celebrating its 20th anniversary, Dr. Payton said, "I think the whole idea of Peace Corps was brought home to me most recently last summer, when there was a terribly damaging hurricane in the Caribbean. Some of the Volunteers who had served with me there were collecting food, clothes and money to send back to the Islanders. Those Volunteers had left the Islands in 1967, but they still had a concern and care about those Islanders. That's what I think is at the heart of the Peace Corps, and that's why the Peace Corps is relevant today."
On behalf of the Peace Corps, Acting Director Charles R. Baquet III will attend a memorial service for Dr. Payton at the Howard University chapel on April 17 at 11 a.m. In honor of her contributions to the agency, the Peace Corps flag will fly at half staff.