NORTH MYRTLE BEACH—Dr. Paul Kenneth Browning, 74, passed away on Aug. 30 in his North Myrtle Beach home surrounded by wife Phyllis and their four daughters. Paul died from complications of frontotemporal degeneration.
Paul was born on July 20, 1945, to Ruby Burton and Paul (“Toothpick” or “Toots”) Kreth Browning in Durham, North Carolina.
He grew up on Carver Street with his big brother Vic. He was fortunate to have lots of family from Durham, especially his cousin, Ann Burton Lowdermilk, who was more like a sister.
Paul spent time with his friends at the local hangout, the Dairy Mart, and went to reunions there for decades. It was at Hillandale Golf Course where Toots and his golfing buddies taught Paul to play as a young teenager. Paul remained an avid golfer throughout his life, making three holes–in-one and later traveling to Scotland to play the famous courses.
After graduating from Durham’s Northern High School, Paul attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for undergraduate and graduate degrees, achieving a master of arts in education administration. While at Carolina, he found another enduring passion – Tar Heel basketball.
Paul dedicated 50 years to public education in North and South Carolina. He began his career in 1967 as a teacher and basketball coach at Toler High School in Oxford, Granville County.
He was set up on a fortuitous blind date with Phyllis Williams, a Watts nursing student from Henderson. In 1970, the couple wed and moved to Henderson in Vance County where Paul became a teacher at Henderson Junior High and later the principal at Carver Elementary School through 1977. He joined community service organizations and rose to leadership roles by his mid-20s.
Paul and Phyllis welcomed their first two daughters, Ashley and Anderson (“Andi”). Paul sought the opportunity to move up to lead a high school and brought the family to Newton Grove, Sampson County, where he was the principal at Hobbton High School from 1977 until 1980. He enjoyed this small, tight-knit community where the schools were the centerpiece. And he found his true calling—the high school principalship.
In 1980, the family moved to Elizabeth City and Paul became the principal at Northeastern High School. He bought his first sailboat to sail on the Pasquotank River, which runs through Elizabeth City.
While in Elizabeth City, the Browning family grew to six with the addition of two more daughters, Elizabeth (“Betsy”) and Blair. Paul loved to take his family to Nags Head and the surrounding beaches where he enjoyed swimming in the ocean and body surfing.
Paul became the principal of South Johnston High School in Johnston County in 1985, a position he served through 1991. While there he hired wonderful teachers that he would later bring on board at Socastee High School — Lou Ellen Blackmon, Ally Gordon and Curtis Hudson. During this time, Paul earned his doctorate of education from Vanderbilt University in 1987. He also began his decade-long work as an adjunct professor at East Carolina University, teaching courses in education administration. Paul was active in community service projects and organizations, winning awards for his education and leadership skills, including Wachovia’s Principal of the Year.
In 1991 and 1992, Paul worked at the Leadership Institute for Principals in North Carolina’s Department of Public Instruction. He was subsequently named superintendent of Greene County Schools where he served from 1992 until his retirement in 1997. In Greene County, he implemented an array of changes and initiatives that bettered the school district and the community as a whole.
Paul retired from North Carolina’s public schools in 1997. He could have done anything or gone anywhere to enjoy his retirement. He chose to return to his favorite job at one of his favorite places — a high school principal in Myrtle Beach.
In 1998, he began his career anew with the South Carolina Public Schools at Socastee High School, where he remained until he retired in 2017. While at Socastee he continued his lifelong passion for excellence for every student.
The successes the school enjoyed under his leadership were countless, and they mirrored the history of creative leadership, impeccable scholarship and always good humor that characterized his work and his outlook on life.
Paul was an innovator, a fearless leader and a champion of public schools. His professional life was a testament to the power of a brilliant mind and a “don’t take yourself too seriously” outlook. He loved young people and he loved teachers.
Everyone he touched benefited from his firm hand and kind heart. He also loved music and golf and fishing and countless other interests that gave him a unique lens on the world. It was this combination that allowed him, while serving at Socastee, also to consult in school improvement and leadership development with struggling schools in North Carolina. As with his many other ventures, he was highly successful in producing positive results.
Paul leaves behind his wife of almost 50 years, Phyllis; daughters Ashley Young of Raleigh, Andi Wicker of Clayton, Betsy Jenks of Raleigh (Hunter) and Blair Browning of North Myrtle Beach and grandchildren Kayleigh, Madison, Wiley, Genevieve, Ryker, Camille, Ava and Claire.
Please join family and friends in remembrance of Dr. Browning. Services will be held at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21 in the Socastee High School Auditorium.
In lieu of flowers, please contribute to: Dr. Paul K. Browning Memorial Scholarship, Socastee High School, 4900 Socastee Blvd.,
Myrtle Beach, SC 29588 . Please make checks payable to Socastee High School.
Donations will be graciously accepted at the service.