Much of Oklahoma’s wealth was built upon agriculture and the oil and gas industry. Oklahomans who dared to risk in the oil patch were an independent breed. They were of the “bootstraps mentality” and credited the American free enterprise system for allowing them the opportunity to get ahead in life. Legends such as Frank Phillips, Lloyd Noble and John Mabee profited greatly from Oklahoma oil and gas deposits and were determined to repay their debt to society by setting up foundations and trusts that would provide resources for the next generation.
Such a man was W.T. “Bill” Payne. Early in his career, he had partnered with Walter Helmerich to establish the successful Tulsa firm that became Helmerich and Payne. Later, he founded Big Chief Drilling Company in Oklahoma City and became a leading figure in local Chamber of Commerce activities, always promoting whatever was good for the community.
Mr. Payne often quoted the old saw, “The rent you pay for the space you occupy on this earth is the service you render to your fellow man.” He lived by that guiding principle and found many causes that could use his services. Among those causes was Oklahoma Christian. Bill Payne cheerfully welcomed the move of Central Christian College to the capital city. A longtime supporter of the Boy Scouts of America and later the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Mr. Payne found the Christian values of the college and the citizenship education programs very much to his liking. He served on the college’s Board of Governors and frequently wrote letters to fellow business leaders to encourage their support of the college and its citizenship education programs.
Always interested in athletics, Mr. Payne initiated the effort to build a natatorium as part of Oklahoma Christian’s athletic facilities. He chaired the campaign and gave most of the money that was used to build the indoor pool in 1980. The Payne Athletic Center bears his name as a tribute to the many ways he found to advance the work of Oklahoma Christian. He also set up scholarship endowments on behalf of Oklahoma Christian at the Oklahoma City Community Foundation.