John K.C. Payne, St. Paul’s grad and former newspaper reporter who later became an investment banker, dies at 44

John K.C. Payne, a former Baltimore Sun reporter who was known for his expansive sense of humor and wry eye, and who later became a Virginia investment banker, died Feb. 25 from sarcoma at his Virginia Beach home. The former Guilford resident was 44.


“Kimball was my best friend and the Payne family was my second family. I was always there for dinners and playing croquet in their backyard,” said Kris LaBadie, who was also a St. Paul’s School classmate.

“He was a no-nonsense guy, and you always knew where you stood with him, and he’d give you the shirt off his back, but it better not have been for the wrong reason. He was also a great listener and would always tell you the right thing at the right time,” he said.


“He had a great sense of humor and an outgoing nature and that’s what people knew him for. But when you got to know him, he was caring, loving, and the standup best guy ever,” Mr. LaBadie said. “I’m having trouble imagining life without him. But, he lived a great life.”

John Kimball Payne

Scott Marimow, who graduated from St. Paul’s in 1998, became a close friend of Mr. Payne’s.

“Kimball was just larger than life in both stature and personality,” Mr. Marimow said. “He was an always happy, outgoing person who made everyone feel comfortable.”

John Kimball Champe Payne, who never used his first name, was the son of Dr. John Walter Payne, an ophthalmologist, and his wife, Jane Champe Payne, a homemaker. He was born in Philadelphia and raised in Guilford.

Mr. Payne attended the Calvert School and St. Paul’s School, where he was an outstanding athlete and played football, lacrosse and ice hockey.

The Brooklandville school became the centerpiece of his teenage years, and he fell under the spell of Tom “Stretch” Longstreth, the legendary English teacher and coach.

When Mr. Longstreth died in 2009, in an homage to his former favorite teacher, Mr. Payne told The Sun, “I knew I was in Stretch’s wheelhouse because I was interested in Holden Caufield, baseball and sex. I knew this would be an easy A-minus.”

Another close classmate who became a lifelong friend was Chad Unitas, a friend since fifth grade.


“Kimball was one of the smartest football payers I ever played with. He was a brilliant person and he knew the game,” recalled Mr. Unitas. “First, he was a really good person and if you ever needed him, he was there in a heartbeat.”

Their relationship continued into their college years.

“When I went to college, I had Kimball write my papers. I’d send him the syllabus. He’d send me the paper and I’d call him and tell him to dumb it down, my teachers are never going to believe this,” Mr. Unitas said, with a laugh. “He used the word ‘betwixt’ one time, and I said, ‘Kimball, what the hell does that mean?’”

After graduating from St. Paul’s in 1997, Mr. Payne earned a bachelor’s degree in 2001 in international relations and affairs from Columbia University, where he also played football.

After traveling the world for a year following graduation, Mr. Payne, planning on a career in newspapers, joined The Sun’s internship program, where he was a general assignment reporter, covering and writing about a variety of topics.

At the conclusion of his internship, Mr. Payne joined The Daily Press in Newport News, Virginia, as a political reporter, and where once again, he installed his arcane and bizarre sense of humor.


“Kimball had written a story about a crooked developer who called him one day and said, ‘I’m going to sue you for defecation of character,’” Dr. Payne recalled. “Kimball replied ‘Would you mind repeating that, Sir?’ and opened the phone so the whole newsroom of 40 could hear the man repeat it. It was just hysterical.”

Mr. Payne left The Daily Press and took a job in 2011 as a financial adviser with Scott & Stringfellow, where he had worked with Peter Reuss.

In 2021, the two men joined The Tidewater Group of Davenport & Co. LLC. in Virginia Beach, a financial services firm, where Mr. Payne was first vice president.

“Kimball was the ideal conversationalist. He could talk to anyone whether they were a homeless person or the president of a company. He was very authentic and I was always amazed how many clients would call and ask for him,” Mr. Reuss said. “Even though he was personally unmoved by money, he dealt with clients well.”

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Mr. Payne relished spending time with his family.

“I don’t know anyone who brought more warmth, humor and fun to our family gatherings than Kimball did,” wrote a cousin, Frank Langfitt, a former Sun foreign correspondent, who is now NPR’s London correspondent, in an email to The Sun.


“One night at the beach a couple of years ago, all the cousins went out dancing at a restaurant where a family member was playing the guitar. Kimball, a hulking, former lineman, did the pretzel with Owyn, his young daughter, who was perhaps a third his size,” he wrote.

“Then as Kimball held her hands, Owyn walked up his chest and did a flip. That was Kimball and how our extended family will remember him. We were all lucky to have had him in our lives,” Mr. Langfitt wrote.

In addition to his family, Mr. Payne enjoyed spending time with friends, going to the beach, and attending games of the Norfolk Tides baseball team, a Triple-A affiliate of the Orioles.

A celebration-of-life gathering will be held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. March 19 at the Delta Hotel, 2800 Shore Drive, Virginia Beach. A second service will be held at 1 p.m. March 25 at St. Paul’s School, 11152 Falls Road, Brooklandville.

He is survived by his wife of 13 years, the former Ragan Smith; two children, Maddox Payne, 10, and Owyn Payne, 8; his parents, Dr. John W. Payne and Jane C. Payne, of Guilford; and a brother, David Payne of Guilford.