Wonderful Women Wednesday: Nell Payne

Each week, the Archives features a woman who has been a groundbreaker at the Smithsonian, past or present, in a series titled Wonderful Women Wednesday.

Nell Payne was the Smithsonian’s director of government relations between 2000 and 2016. She was responsible for maintaining the Smithsonian's relationships with Congress, the White House, the Office of Management and Budget, and with government officials.

Payne was able, in part, to be so effective in her role, because she had years of experience working in and alongside government officials. Prior to joining the Smithsonian, she served as the chief counsel for the U.S. Senate Budget Committee, 1982–87; director of government affairs for Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 1987–90; special assistant to the President, Legislative Affairs, 1990–91; and corporate relations manager for American University of Paris, 1994–2000. 

Payne earned her J.D. from the George Washington University in 1982 and her bachelor’s degree in French and literature from the University of Iowa in 1978.

Payne looks directly at the camera. She is not smiling. She is wearing a green sweater and pearls ar

Related Resources

  • Smithsonian Institution Office of Government Relations, Director's Records, 2000-2015, Acc. 21-104, Smithsonian Institution Archives
  • Recognizing Nell Payne” by Representative Sam Johnson, Congressional Record, December 8, 2016

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