Leonidas Warren Payne, Jr., University of Texas English professor and editor of the first anthology of Texas literature, was born in Auburn, Alabama, on July 12, 1873, the son of Leonidas Warren and Mary Jane (Foster) Payne. He received a bachelor's degree from Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) in 1892, a master's degree in 1893, and a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania in 1904. He taught at Southwestern Alabama Agricultural School, the Jacksonville state normal school, the University of Pennsylvania, and Louisiana State University before moving to Texas.
Payne joined the University of Texas faculty in 1906 and was made a full professor of English in 1919. He was one of the first teachers of American literature, and he also fostered the talents of Texas writers Stark Young and J. Frank Dobie. He played a critical role in bringing Dobie back to Texas from Oklahoma in 1925. With John Lomax he founded the Texas Folklore Society in 1909 and served as its first president. He maintained a long friendship with American writers Edwin Arlington Robinson, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg, and was one of the first critics to recognize the genius of E. E. Cummings.
Payne wrote or edited numerous articles and book reviews and contributed to texts widely adopted in Texas schools. He published the first anthology of Texas literature, A Survey of Texas Literature, in 1928. His other published works include History of American Literature (1919) and Texas Poems (1936).
He helped to found the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at the University of Texas, served as founder, deacon, and Sunday school teacher at the University Baptist Church, and belonged to the University, Fortnightly, Town and Gown, and Curtain clubs and the Masonic order. He married Mary Susan Bledsoe of LaFayette, Alabama, in October 1897. They had four children. Payne died of a heart attack on June 16, 1945.