Former Johnston Mayor Terrence Culbreath dies at 39

Dec. 6—Former Johnston Mayor Terrence Culbreath died Sunday.

Culbreath, 39, was found between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.

He was elected to the town council in 2012 and served as mayor from 2014 until he decided not seek reelection in April.

His former Dixie Youth Baseball coach, Thomas Holmes, replaced him as mayor.

Holmes said Culbreath was a young mayor who was full of good intentions for the town. He said the town's residents thought a lot of Culbreath and that he displayed a great love for the town known as the Peach Capital of the World.

He added he always used to pick with Culbreath because when Culbreath played baseball for him, he never could keep his shoes tied.

Twenty-six-year Johnston Councilman Tommy Burton served with Culbreath.

He said Culbreath was very knowledgeable, a smart man and a smart mayor who kept things in perspective and kept the town and police department running smoothly.

Burton said he and Culbreath wouldn't always agree initially on a particular issue but would reach an agreement for the best for the town. He said he told Culbreath when he decided not to seek reelection that he was welcome to go but needed to leave his brain behind.

Johnston is included in the Edgefield County Council District of Chairman Dean Campbell, who is also a former mayor of the town.

Campbell said Culbreath had such a good personality, was very likable, had a great laugh and was very enthusiastic about what he was doing.

Edgefield County is split between the South Carolina House of Representatives districts of Bill Clyburn, D-Aiken, and Bill Hixon, R-North Augusta. Johnston lies in Clyburn's part of the county.

Clyburn said it was hard to believe that Culbreath passed away. He said he remembered having several conversations with Culbreath about improving the community and developing a strategy to do that. He said Culbreath was totally committed to improving the town.

Hixon said said Culbreath was a big man in statute and in loving his community. He said it was sad to see a young man gone so early. Hixon added he worked with Culbreath to get money for a park being redeveloped in the town.

Culbreath also served as political director for the 2020 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J.

Booker said Monday his last memory of Culbreath will be the sweatshirt Culbreath wore when they met a couple of days before Culbreath died.

"He helped lead my presidential campaign; and when I last saw him about 48 hours ago, he was wearing a sweatshirt that I had given him with the words of a poet I love on it," Booker said in a recorded video. "It will be my last memory of seeing him, and it's so fitting. What it said was simply: Real leaders lead with love."

Booker called Culbreath a heroic leader with a magnanimous heart.

"He was one of these leaders that didn't tell you how great he was but made you feel great, that didn't lift to elevate himself but was focused on elevating others," Booker said.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native, said in a tweet he was heartbroken to hear that Culbreath died. He called Culbreath a soul brother and said he was brilliant, creative and fiercely loyal.

He was a Johnston native who left the town after receiving a scholarship to attend a NASCAR school in North Carolina. But, after finishing the program, Culbreath decided to pursue music.

Culbreath earned an audio engineering degree from Full Sail University in Florida. He interned and worked at Stankonia Studios in Atlanta where he helped record "Royal Flush" by OutKast and Raekwon. He placed his first big record with Big Boi's Tangerine but decided to return home to Johnston.

A cause of death has not been officially announced.

Edgefield County Coroner David Burnett said Culbreath's death did not appear suspicious and that an autopsy would be conducted in Newberry on Tuesday.