WILFORD “ABB” PAYNE
WORTH DOING WELL
Abb Payne—a brainy kid who grew up to be an entrepreneurial investor with a mind for business growth—attributes his fastidious, focused demeanor to his hardworking, service-oriented grandmother. Today, Payne’s efforts and ventures would make his grandmother proud. Young but seasoned, relentless yet relatable, Payne allows his stellar business leadership record to speak for themselves. Payne’s passions for learning, leadership, and growth have made him the quintessential business expert and philanthropist to follow.
The Payne family has always valued hard work and a spirit of service. Abb’s mother figure—and greatest influence—was his paternal grandmother Maxine Payne, a widowed businesswoman, realtor, and philanthropist whose sole passion was serving others. “Even though she was in her late seventies when she was raising me, she had this inexhaustible energy. I remember she was principled. She didn’t suffer any fools. She kept me in line, but she also had a soft spot for me.” Maxine Payne was the first female realtor in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. She organized and coordinated the Meals on Wheels program and served as director of the Mississippi AARP. She took action for what she believed was right, and young Abb, in his formative years, had a front-row seat to her ambition, principle, and pluck.
When Payne speaks about his grandmother, it is almost as if he believes every good thing about himself can and should be attributed to her, this saint of a woman who, to this day, looms large in his life. Of course there’s his father, Wilford Albert (W.A.) Payne, a successful Mississippi businessman who, among other ventures, began a series of home health agencies across the Southeast. W.A. always encouraged Abb to make good grades, work hard, and leave things better than he found them. So, after graduating from the University of Mississippi with a Bachelor of Business Administration, Payne went to law school at Florida State University.
“I hated it,” Payne said. “But I couldn’t just quit.”
Plenty of sons take over their father’s businesses. What Abb Payne did with W.A. Payne’s series of home health care offices involved more than succession and management. Payne grew a local business into Camellia Home Health and Hospice, a regional stronghold that he sold in 2018 to Encompass Health, a publicly traded company.
For Payne and his family, the Payne Companies allow them to grow and give, all within a sustainable model designed to strengthen the communities they love so much. “At the end of the day, it’s about doing what we can to create a better life for people,” Payne said, “whether that’s our people or the place we’re from. It’s about doing everything in our power to ensure that tomorrow is brighter than today.