Born In Columbia, Mississippi
He was born Walter Jerry Payton in Columbia, Mississippi, on July 25, 1954. The son of Peter (a factory worker) and Alyne (a homemaker) Payton, Walter Payton grew up in what he later called "a kid's paradise," close to the Pearl River and several factories where he and his siblings enjoyed playing hide and seek. His Baptist parents instilled both a strong religious faith and a desire to strive for excellence in all their children. As a boy, Payton often ran afoul of their strict rules, but he later described them as firm but fair disciplinarians. Years later, Payton told Philip Koslow, author of Walter Payton: "My parents spent a lot of time with us and made us feel loved and wanted. I didn't care much about what went on around me, as long as I was in solid at home."
By the time Payton was eight-years-old, his father, who worked in a nearby factory manufacturing packs and parachutes for the federal government, had saved enough money to move the family into a new home that had separate rooms for each of his children. Only a block away was the John J. Jefferson School, a segregated school attended by all of Columbia's African American children from grades one through twelve. Walter was a better than average student, but his greatest love was music, on which he spent more time than either his studies or sports. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he'd sometimes duck his chores at home so that he could dance or sing instead.