On Friday afternoon word started to get around that one of Socastee High School’s longtime stalwarts had died.
St. James athletic director Billy Hurston heard of the passing of Dr. Paul Browning, the school’s longtime principal, shortly before the Sharks’ football game Friday evening.
Word reached as far as Huntington, West Virginia, where Marshall men’s basketball head coach Dan D’Antoni received calls informing him of the sad news.
“I think he genuinely cared about Socastee being a great school, and he was willing to put the time in,” said D’Antoni, who coached Socastee boys basketball for 30 years. “The biggest thing was he met people easily. He was able to mingle. He was strong when he needed to be strong, yet he was compassionate when he needed to be compassionate. I just thought he had the right temperature for our school.”
Socastee High officially announced Browning’s passing via Facebook on Saturday morning, drawing hundreds of interactions.
“It is with heavy heart that we share the passing of Dr. Browning,” the Facebook post read. “Dr. Browning passed away Friday afternoon. He was an amazing man and a great leader for SHS for 19 years. Please keep the Browning family in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Once a Brave, Always a Brave!”
Hurston, whom Browning hired from Seaside Elementary in 1989, lauded the former principal for his leadership and ability to come up with solutions no matter the situation.
“He was a very straightforward person. He was super intelligent. He was just a great leader,” said Hurston, who coached and taught at Socastee until moving over to St. James High when it opened in 2003. “He set high standards and was just a great guy. Everybody enjoyed him and his leadership. He was just a very fair and very honest guy.”
D’Antoni noted how Browning was a strong advocate of the Braves’ successful basketball program and helped his hoops coach when he helped create the Beach Ball Classic.
“I thought he did an outstanding job of making sure our students were able — in anything, whether it be basketball, football, academics, band — to succeed,” D’Antoni said. “I thought he supported all the activities that our students were involved with and put our school in a very good place. I was sad for his passing and hated to see him go. I really appreciated him and thought he was a hell of a principal.”
With an obituary not yet available, Browning’s cause of death is unknown at this time. However, D’Antoni and Hurston both said Browning’s health had been declining in recent years. He retired in 2017.
“The last few years have been very tough on him and everybody else,” Hurston said. “The world lost a great person. He was just a great principal. I’ve worked for a lot of principals and he was just one of the best.”