Payne Johnson, FN’94

Chapter Member at Large

Payne was instrumental in the formation of the San Diego Chapter of the Explorers Club, and served as Chapter Chair. He was elected a Fellow of the Explorers Club in 1994 based on his many published scientific illustrated articles in books and publications describing his explorations. Payne led a Flag Expedition leading to the rediscovery of the previously unknown site of the first permanent Spanish Port in Central America.  The University of Southern California’s Doheny Library has requested and is receiving hundreds of Payne’s rare photographs of Maya ruins, which will now be available on a Special Collections public web site. 

In the San Diego community Payne served as Deputy Director of the San Diego Natural History Museum, for whom he led tours to Mexico’s Copper Canyon and Aztec sites. He was appointed a Trustee for multiple terms, at the San Diego Museum of Man and lectured and led tours for that institution. As Chairman of the San Diego Museum of Art’s Latin American Art Committee, he was asked to travel to Peru, then return and lecture on the Incas and Machu Picchu to promote their “Golden Treasures of Peru” exhibit. His photos were used in the brochure and exhibit poster. In the 1970’s Payne traveled to the Yucatan Peninsula and Guatemala while carrying John Lloyd Stephens’ “Incidents of Travel” books, which introduced the world to the Maya Civilization. He came home determined to be the first to retrace Stephens’ 1839-1841 footsteps. In the 1980’s he undertook a series of several month expeditions over a three-year period exploring and photographing countless remote Maya sites. Payne has also retraced Stephen’s footsteps through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan and the Holy Land. Stephens was the first American to visit Petra. In 1989, Payne was named visiting curator at the San Diego Museum of Man for a major exhibition titled “Path to the Lost Cities: In the Footsteps of John Lloyd Stephens.” That exhibit and countless requests by visitors, led to Payne to establish his own archaeological tour company, which has allowed hundreds of participants to travel and study early cultures through a dozen countries in Mesoamerica, South America, the Middle East and Europe.