Richard Gantt Paine was born at 25 Coming Street, Charleston, S.C. on February 15, 1875, the son of Porteous Russell Paine and Ella Mary Gantt.
In his youth, he lived at 57 Charlotte Street with his parents and younger brother, Porteous Russell, Jr., and devoted considerable leisure time to boating and model-making. In 1894 he graduated from the Patrick Military Institute. In 1896 he moved to Washington, D.C. and was employed as a junior architect for the Federal Government. In 1906 he became a surveyor. In 1910, he married Annie Maude Kilmartin of Petersburg, Virginia. During a long career in the federal service, he worked at the National Zoological Park and the National Museum (of Natural History),
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