Former Aiken Police Chief J. Carrol Busbee dies at age 86
The news of the longtime chief and anchor of the Aiken community’s passing was summed up perfectly by one of the city’s top officers.
“He’s the father of Aiken Public Safety,” Lt. Jake Mahoney said.“This agency is his legacy. We are who we are today because of the man he was. His love for this department and the officers was evident in everything he did.”
Former Aiken Police Chief J. Carrol Busbee died Thursday, Jan. 3, at the age of 86 in his home surrounded by friends and family, said current Aiken Public Safety Chief Charles Barranco.
“I could say so much about (Busbee),” Barranco said. “He was a mentor to me, as well as many others. He absolutely impacted my life in a positive way. We are very fortunate to have had him as a great leader in the community. He will be greatly missed.”
Busbee served as the Aiken Fire Chief from February 1964 to July 1970, when he was named the first director of the Aiken Department of Public Safety.
“Some of the advancements and benefits within the community today are a direct result of Chief Busbee’s lifelong dedication to making Aiken a better place,” Barranco said.
With Busbee at the helm, Public Safety become a Class 2 Fire Department, first in South Carolina, in 1982. He also worked to get the agency national accreditation in March 1998.
He led the department until his retirement in February 1999.
″(Busbee) was a great leader and visionary,” said Aiken County Sheriff Michael Hunt. “He was good man and like a second father to me. He is the reason all the law enforcement agencies around here have such good working relationships.”
His legacy will last forever through Aiken Public Safety’s new headquarters, which is named in Busbee’s honor as the J. Carrol Busbee Headquarters; the building is almost complete in its new location at 843 Beaufort St. N.E. in downtown Aiken.
Mahoney said one of his fondest memories of Busbee was at last year’s open house, when Busbee came up to Mahoney and his two sons.
“He came up to my sons and asked if they could walk him to his car,” Mahoney said. “I remember watching my boys walk him over to his car and was just so proud.”
A post on the agency’s Facebook page states, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Busbee family. Chief we will miss you!”
According to a past Aiken Standard article in 1992, Busbee credited the success of the department to the Aiken community.
“We have a community that gets involved,” Busbee is quoted as saying in the article.
He also spoke about his family connection to Aiken, going back to his grandfather.
“All my family was raised here,” he said. “My grandfather walked these streets as a police officer. Aiken is a just a good place to be.”
Aiken Mayor Rick Osbon described Busbee’s passing as a great loss, but noted that his legacy will “always be with us.”
“Chief Busbee’s impact on the Aiken Department of Public Safety can be seen each and every day through the professionalism and fairness that our officers display,” Osbon said in part. “He set the standard and lived the example.”
Aiken City Manager Stuart Bedenbaugh echoed Osbon, calling Busbee a “public servant in the truest sense.”
“He was a giant in the annals of our city and set a high standard that our public safety department maintains to this day,” Bedenbaugh said. “I offer my deepest gratitude to Chief Busbee and extend my prayers to his family.”
Lee Wetherington, former director of the North Augusta Department of Public Safety, said he has known Busbee professionally for over 40 years, and that Busbee was one of the first to congratulate him when he became Public Safety director in North Augusta.
“I served various state and county committee’s with this man and through several county wide emergencies. He was always the calm in the storm. He was a thoughtful, sharing, leader who always was there for all departments, whether volunteer or professional throughout Aiken County,” Wetherington said. “His legacy will live on in Aiken and throughout the county. I was proud to be able to call on him for advice and was even more proud to call him my friend.”
Staff writers Lindsey Hodges and Colin Demarest contributed to this article.