"Bre had a lot of success as a writer, reporter, and commentator after leaving PHC to join the world of political journalism in Washington. When the news came out, immediately she received many, many tributes to her kindness, talent, humor, graciousness, and Christ-like character from the many colleagues and friends. We were surprised neither by her success nor the impact she had on the people she encountered. That's just who she was," says Dr. Les Sillars, professor of Journalism at Patrick Henry College.
Breanna Claire “Bre” Payton was born in California on June 8, 1992, to George and Cindy Payton. She attended PHC, studying political journalism and interning as an investigative journalist for Watchdog.org. After graduating in 2015, she went on to join The Federalist as a staff writer. She was featured as a commentator for outlets such as Fox News, MSNBC, CNN, and OANN. The week of Christmas, she traveled back to California from her new home in DC to guest-host “Tipping Point” on OANN for Liz Wheeler.
Reports say she felt sick during the day on Wednesday, December 26, but refused to back out of her agreement to guest-host. The next morning, Thursday, December 27, her friend Morgan Murtaugh found her unconscious and called 911. After a series of tests, Doctors ruled that the coma was a result of H1N1 and encephalitis. She passed away on Friday, December 28, and is survived by her parents, brothers James and Jack, sisters Christina and Cheekie, and boyfriend Ryan Colby.
She will be sorely missed by the friends, family, and colleagues she left behind.
Dr. Les Sillars, professor of Journalism at PHC, taught many of her classes. He says,
“Bre was a great blessing to have in class and in our program. We're so saddened at her passing, and we offer our condolences to all her family and close friends. She knew Jesus, so we'll see her again, but it's still hard now.”
"Bre is a great model for aspiring young journalists everywhere; she showed that it is possible to be a faithful Christian and a great journalist. We were privileged to know her, even for a little while, and we'll miss her a lot.”
Evie Fordham (‘19), another journalism student at PHC, interned under Bre, working for The Federalist.
"Bre was a great boss but she became a great friend,” Fordham said. “And when I moved to D.C., she didn’t mind when I bugged her with questions. And boy, was I grateful for someone else who laughed at my unfunny PHC jokes at networking events. Bre graduated from PHC before I even started, but she was someone I looked up to for so many reasons—her intelligence, her convictions, her fashion (of course!), but especially for her kindness."
Fordham (center-right) with Payton (right) and fellow PHCer Susanna Hoffman (center-left) at the Daily Caller News Gala last December
"She was always ready to lend a listening ear to whoever came her way and make them feel better," Fordham continued, "whether they were discouraged by D.C. politics or worried about a TV hit. I think her genuine soul is what struck nearly every person who met her the most. She could go from prayer group to green room to gala and make a connection with each person she met."
"There are a lot of people in D.C. who are popular or esteemed, but not a lot of people you should want to be like. That in no way applied to Bre. I think the last conversation we had was about her desire to help a friend who wanted to move into journalism full-time and how excited she was for her. She cared about others deeply and it showed. And that’s something I’ll always remember and want to carry with me."
Megan Pierce ('16) was roommates with Bre during their time at PHC. She says,
"There are many Bre moments that our friend group will always cherish; to pick one or even two favorites is very difficult and most of my Bre memories are the sort where you had to be there to appreciate them. Bre was always encouraging me and our other friends to dream bigger, be better, and to have more fun! She had a great spunk about her; even when things weren’t going the way she wished or planned she knew that the Lord was in control. Bre was also very humble about her success. Of course, she was up front and honest about her achievements but she never thought they were as big or grand as they really were. And her success never made her too important for her family and friends. We will miss our beautiful friend in this life but we look forward to joining her in heaven one day."
The Payton family has set up the Bre Payton Scholarship Fund "in loving memory of Bre’s beautiful light, joyful spirit, hard-working ethics, and compassionate heart." The fund will go towards college scholarships to support other rising Christian leaders.
Learn more about Journalism and other strong academic programs at Patrick Henry College.