Former local school administrator dies

Easley mayor remembers

longtime friend Gilstrap



EASLEY — Easley Mayor Larry Bagwell was somber Monday night after attending the funeral of his close friend and former coworker, Earl Gilstrap Jr.

“You always want to go and pay your respects,” Bagwell said. “But I would rather have Earl living, joking with me about the old days of Easley football.”

Gilstrap, who once served as an assistant coach under Bagwell at Easley, passed away Friday at age 66 after a battle with brain cancer.

He graduated from Easley High School in 1967. Gilstrap’s brother, Rick, led the team to the AA state championship as a quarterback in 1967. Gilstrap moved on to play for Clemson University and legendary coach Frank Howard. He played there from 1968-1971, as a kicking-team specialist, center and defensive back.

He returned to Easley and eventually joined Bagwell’s coaching staff.

In addition to his duties as a football assistant, Gilstrap served in other sports.

“Back then, the football assistants had to coach other sports, just so we could field teams,” Bagwell said. “Whether it be basketball, track or some other sport, Earl always gave Easley his best. He gave generously to Easley High School.”

Eventually, Gilstrap moved up in his profession, serving as principal at schools such as Easley Junior High and Daniel High

“Whatever he did, he gave his best,” Bagwell said. “That’s just the way Earl was.”

Gilstrap moved to the district office eventually, serving as director of secondary education.

“He was the same in his classes that he was on the field,” Bagwell said. “Every student mattered to him.”

After retiring from the School District of Pickens County, Gilstrap served as assistant principal at Southside High School in Greenville.

“Doesn’t surprise me much,” Bagwell said. “He just couldn’t stop caring.”

Bagwell said he couldnot hope to replace Gilstrap as a friend.

“That’s just impossible,” Bagwell said. “But we all could care a bit more about other people in honor of Earl. That would be a fitting tribute.”

Southside High School has planned a walkathon benefit to help the Gilstrap family with medical expenses. The event is planned for 8 a.m.-noon on Feb. 28 at the school’s track, located at 100 Blassingame Road in Greenville.

To make a donation, send a check to Southside High School c/o Gilstrap Walkathon, 6630 Frontage Road at White Horse Road, Greenville SC 29605. Checks should be made payable to Southside High School, with a memo for Gilstrap Walkathon.

For more information, email or find the event on Facebook.