Margaret Arlene Payne’s obituary tells the story of a pioneering academic. She authored two books, had a doctorate from the University of Chicago and was a former research professor at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Only the end of her death notice names the relation she kept proudly to herself. Listed ninth among her survivors, amid the nieces and nephews of different generations, was the name Barack Obama. Payne’s sister was the president’s grandmother.
“He was in the place of the relatives, which is what he was for her,” said Margery Duffey, a close friend who lived in Chapel Hill with Payne for 34 years.