Busbee, Cyril B.

December 17, 1908–September 6, 2001

Under federal desegregation guidelines, the state had to create a unitary school system instead of the racially separate systems that had been in place prior to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Federal guidelines quashed tactics such as freedom-of-choice plans that many districts utilized to circumvent or slow desegregation. Busing to achieve a racial balance was emphasized in the new regulations. Busbee’s calm, moderate leadership as superintendent proved a great asset during these times.

Educator. Busbee was born on December 17, 1908, in Wagener, the son of William Judson Busbee and Minnie Toole. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Carolina in 1928, followed by a master’s degree in 1938. He married Thelma Ecord in 1929, and they had two children, Cyril and Carolyn.

In his early career Busbee was a teacher, coach, and administrator at Homerville, Georgia; Windsor, South Carolina; and Baron DeKalb schools in Westville, South Carolina. In 1943 he moved to Brookland-Cayce schools (which later became Lexington District Two), where he rose to superintendent. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II in the European theater. After returning to his school district in 1946, he remained as superintendent for twenty-one years. As an administrator, he was considered quite teacher-oriented.

When Dr. Jesse T. Anderson retired as state superintendent of education in 1966, Busbee won election to the position. In the election he surmounted the first serious Republican challenge in a century, beating Dr. Inez C. Eddings with fifty-three percent of the vote. Busbee ran as a moderate conservative and won despite the unpopularity in South Carolina of the national Democratic educational policies of the Johnson administration. Four years later he easily won reelection against Eddings, and he was unopposed in 1974. After three terms as state superintendent, he retired in 1979.

Under federal desegregation guidelines, the state had to create a unitary school system instead of the racially separate systems that had been in place prior to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. Federal guidelines quashed tactics such as freedom-of-choice plans that many districts utilized to circumvent or slow desegregation. Busing to achieve a racial balance was emphasized in the new regulations. Busbee’s calm, moderate leadership as superintendent proved a great asset during these times. The process for South Carolina was not without some opposition, most notably the Lamar Riots of 1970, but the state fared better than many other southern states did in accepting, however reluctantly, full integration of schools. Busbee received credit for the relatively calm transition. His leadership was instrumental in the shift from the traditional conservative perspective of federal meddling in local educational matters, to political acceptance of federal dollars for education as an advantage to the state. The state enacted a statewide kindergarten program, and the state’s free basic textbook program was expanded to include all grade levels. Busbee also oversaw the opening of fifty-six vocational centers for high school students.

After retirement, Busbee worked as a consultant to the president of the University of South Carolina. He also served as a director of C&S National Bank and the Lexington Medical Center. During his retirement he lived in Cayce, where he died on September 6, 2001. He was interred at Southland Memorial Gardens.

Obituary. Columbia State, September 7, 2001, p. B4.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Title Busbee, Cyril B.
  • Coverage December 17, 1908–September 6, 2001
  • Author
  • Keywords Educator, Brown v. Board of Education, Lamar Riots of 1970, oversaw the opening of fifty-six vocational centers for high school students, director of C&S National Bank and the Lexington Medical Center
  • Website Name South Carolina Encyclopedia
  • Publisher University of South Carolina, Institute for Southern Studies
  • URL
  • Access Date October 5, 2022
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update July 19, 2022
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