‘Uncle Dick’ Payne honored with sculpture
by Jennifer Cohron
Apr 06, 2014 | 1116 views | 0 0 comments | 125 125 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A sculpture of Richard Elliott “Uncle Dick” Payne was recently placed at the Old Houston Jail in Winston County. Payne is credited with coining the phrase “the Free State of Winston” during the Civil War. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
A sculpture of Richard Elliott “Uncle Dick” Payne was recently placed at the Old Houston Jail in Winston County. Payne is credited with coining the phrase “the Free State of Winston” during the Civil War. Daily Mountain Eagle - Jennifer Cohron
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HOUSTON — A sculpture of Richard Elliott “Uncle Dick” Payne, who is credited with coining the phrase “the Free State of Winston,” was dedicated at the Old Houston Jail last weekend.

The project was spearheaded by the Winston County Grays, a local Sons of Confederate Veterans camp.

The sculpture of Payne joins another of John Anthony Winston, the 15th governor of Alabama, that was dedicated in 2008.

Steve Turner of the Winston County Grays said there are plans to place at least two more sculptures at the historic jail.

One will be Willis Farris, the first sheriff of Winston County (then named Hancock County).

The other will be Aunt Jenny Johnson, a midwife and medicine woman who lived in the Bankhead National Forest in the mid to late 19th century and is the subject of numerous local legends.

Each sculpture costs approximately $10,000. The sculptor is Branko Medenica, who also created the “Dual Destiny” monument located outside the Winston County Courthouse in Double Springs.

Turner said he and Sheriff Rick Harris first discussed the idea of erecting a monument to Winston shortly after efforts to restore the log jail began in 2006.

“I wasn’t being negative, but I just didn’t think the money would come as easily as it did. Once we started on Winston, we had $10,000 in six months,” Turner said.

Winston was a colonel in the 8th Alabama Infantry Regiment of the Confederate Army.

Payne was a private in Company D of the 27th Alabama Regiment in the Civil War.

Turner was instrumental in securing Confederate military markers at the graves of both men in recent years.

Turner now portrays Payne at an annual Living History Day held at the Houston Jail each October.

Payne was among the 2,500 people who met at Looney’s Tavern in 1861 to discuss secession.

Schoolteacher Christopher Sheats, who served as Winston County’s representative to the state secession convention in January 1861, argued that a county wishing to remain neutral in the war could secede from a state if the state could secede from the Union.

Payne then exclaimed sarcastically, “Oh, Oh, Winston secedes! The Free State of Winston!”

In addition to being a flagbearer in the Confederate Army, Payne was also a banker and made his own currency using brown paper.