How did Allison Payne die? Ex-WGN host, 57, had reported on Obama's roots in Kenya

Tributes pour in after the death of anchor made public by WGN, remembered as 'sweet kind woman' and a 'great anchor' a decade after on-air exit

                            How did Allison Payne die? Ex-WGN host, 57, had reported on Obama's roots in Kenya
WGN anchor Allison traced former President Obama’s roots in Kenya and traveled to the Ivory Coast alongside Rev Jesse Jackson (Twitter)

Former WGN anchor Allison Payne has died at 57, the channel confirmed on September 10. A native of Detroit, Payne spent 21 years at WGN-TV, where she anchored numerous shows, including the primetime 9 pm newscast. As the channel confirmed her death, tributes began to pour in on social media for the famous journalist and many recounting how her reporting influenced their lives.

Payne joins several other prominent journalists who passed away this year. On June 16, Dick Stolley, the founding editor of People Magazine died in a nursing home in Illinois. Just days later, Hawaii journalist and sportscaster Robert Kekaula died suddenly at the age of 56. In early July, Grapevine TV panelist Ayesha Faines died after suffering from a fatal allergic reaction at the age of 35. 

The sudden death of Payne was confirmed by WGN, through a statement. The channel's Entertainment reporter Dean Richards also took to social media to announce Payne's death, with a heartfelt tweet that said, "I’m so sad to report the death of former WGN TV anchor, Allison Payne in her hometown of Detroit. She co-anchored WGN News for 21 years earning 9 Emmys. Allison suffered a series of health issues although a cause of death has not been released. She was 57. RIP my friend."



How did Allison Payne die?

At the time of reporting, an exact cause for Payne's death has not been revealed as Richards noted. In its statement, WGN too alluded to her health issues but did not say what exactly caused Payne's death. In January and August 2008, Payne went on medical leave after suffering a series of mini-strokes. That led to her announcing an indefinite leave of absence in November 2008 and admitted in January 2009 that she was being treated for depression. "It was brutal getting out of the house, I couldn't get out of bed," she said in an interview.

Payne did make a return in 2009 but went off-air in January 2011. She confirmed a few weeks later that it was because "I’m having trouble with my vocal cords." A series of unprofessional on-air appearances, including slurring of words, glassy-eyed gazes, and sobbing led to massive criticisms, forced the channel to demote her from the 5:30 pm and 9:00 pm newscast. Payne never revealed the details of what was ailing her, but after several attempts to get back, decided to end her career in September 2011. "After a series of unfortunate health events, Payne and WGN parted ways in September 2011 as she returned to her hometown of Detroit," WGN said in its statement.

It's unclear how Payne's health was in the decade since. She did start her own production company in late 2011 but largely disappeared from public life. After her exit in September 2011, Payne is now back in the news over her death. She was living in her hometown of Detroit when she passed away, but beyond that, we have no information.

Allison Payne on air with Steve Sanders. (Twitter)


'Gone too soon'

News of Payne's death quickly spread on social media, leading many to mourn the beloved anchor. "Damn. Just got the news that longtime @WGNTV anchor Allison Payne has died. She was 57. Allison was a sweet, kind woman; a great anchor, who had an adorable smile. She suffered a lot of health issues the last several years. Gone so soon," one person tweeted. Another said, "I am heartbroken over the death of Allison Payne. For 21 years she was theee face of @WGNNews for me, a little black girl living in Bolingbrook, IL. My parents moved my bedtime to 9:30p so that I could watch the nightly news with @AllisonPayneTV & Steve Sanders."




One WGN employee tweeted, "I’m heartbroken. Allison Payne was my TV godmother, my mentor, my beloved friend. I wish I could’ve saved her like she protected me when I first started this crazy career. She was fiercely smart, beautiful, generous. I can’t believe she’s gone." WGN's weather producer said, "I'm so sad to hear about the passing of former WGN news anchor Allison Payne. I worked with her for several years, she was a kind, beautiful soul who co-anchored the news for 21 yrs and earned 9 emmy awards. RIP sweet friend."




During her long career with WGN, Payne ended up reporting on Barack Obama's roots in Kenya and Reverend Jesse Jackson's peace negotiations between Israel and Lebanon, among other major stories. She won nine Emmy Awards for her journalism, including one for Outstanding Achievement for Individual Excellence On Camera and Outstanding Achievement for Informational Programs.