The Huntsville area has traditionally boasted some of the most outstanding youth baseball programs in the state. Much of the credit belongs to William, whose name is practically synonymous with Babe Ruth League in Huntsville and Madison County. The longtime superintendent of the citys recreation centers, Payne founded the local Babe Ruth program in the late 1950s. He was the Babe Ruth assistant commissioner for the Southeast region until 1998. Largely because of Paynes influence, the citys summer baseball league for the ages of 13 to 18 is one of the most successful and enduring in Alabama. Among the many former players who came through the program under Paynes guidance are Huntsville Stars president Don Mincher, who played 12 years in the major leagues, and Condredge Holloway, who played football at Tennessee and in the Canadian League. Payne, the son of a renowned local baseball player from Lincoln Mill Village named Peno Payne, was born in Madison County on September 26, 1928. One of the top high school players in the state, Erk Payne later signed a professional baseball contract with the St. Louis Cardinals organization. He took a job with the city of Huntsville in 1957 as a coach of pee wee sports and later took over the overall city youth program, which grew from four teams in the early 1960s to hundreds of teams by the mid-1990s. Payne said he has traveled all over the country and has never seen a city with a better recreation program than Huntsvilles.