Charles T. Payne, President Barack Obama's great-uncle, dies at age 89

Charles T. Payne, President Obama's great-uncle, during an Charles T. Payne, President Obama's great-uncle, during an interview with The Associated Press in Chicago. Payne is the brother of Obama's maternal grandmother, Madelyn Payne Dunham. Payne died Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, in Chicago of non-Hodgkins lymphoma, his wife Melanie said. He was 89. Photo Credit: AP / Paul Beaty

advertisement | advertise on newsday

CHICAGO -- Charles T. Payne, a World War II vet and great-uncle of President Barack Obama who was briefly in the public eye during his nephew's first presidential bid, has died.

Payne's wife of 50 years, Melanie Payne, said her husband died Aug. 1 in Chicago of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. He was 89.

Payne, the brother of Obama's maternal grandmother, helped liberate a Nazi concentration camp during the war, and later became a pioneer in information technology at the University of Chicago. He retired at age 70 as assistant director of the university's library.

During the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama mistakenly said his Uncle Charlie had helped liberate Auschwitz. Payne's infantry division liberated Ohrdruf, a subcamp of the Buchenwald concentration camp.

Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz as they marched across Poland in January 1945.

Payne told The Associated Press at the time that he was "truly astonished" by the attention paid to Obama's flub, and called his nephew "truly an astounding young man."

advertisement | advertise on newsday

After the war, Payne went to college in Kansas on the GI Bill and then to graduate school at the University of Chicago, where Obama later would lecture on constitutional law.

Payne also is survived by a son, Richard. -- AP

The best of Newsday every day in your inbox. Get the Newsday Now newsletter!

Comments now uses Facebook for our comment boards. Please read our guidelines and connect your Facebook account to comment.

You also may be interested in: