Culp knew weather

Before AccuWeather, there was Bill Culp.

Culp, who died Saturday at age 87, was born at Winthrop University and eventually inherited his father's job as the university's facilities engineer. Because his family lived in university housing, he virtually grew up with the campus as his backyard.

After serving in the Army Air Corps in England during World War II, Culp came home and went to work at Winthrop. He first was physical plant director and later was promoted to assistant vice president for campus renovations. One of the duties he assumed from his father was the operation of the National Weather Service's satellite at Winthrop and the collection of weather data on campus.

For many years, much of the data provided by the Weather Service to local residents was collected in Charlotte or the Greenville-Spartanburg area as part of a regional weather system. Often, however, the regional conditions differed significantly from what was going on in York County or, more specifically, in Rock Hill.

So, if one wanted an accurate measurement of how much rain had fallen overnight in Rock Hill or how many days the city had gone without a drop of rain, Culp was the person to ask. He dutifully read his rain gauges, took temperatures and kept local weather records for decades. And The Herald relied on him as the inexhaustible font of information whenever it did a weather story.

When he was 82, Culp was honored by the Weather Service for collecting weather data for more than 50 years. Three National Weather Service officials came to Winthrop to make the presentation of the Thomas Jefferson Award in Culp's office, with a dozen friends and family members looking on. Only seven of the more than 11,000 Cooperative Weather Observers had received the award.

Now, his son Bill Culp Jr. has become the third generation to assume those weather collection duties, an appropriate and touching legacy.

As physical plant director, Culp played a crucial role in the university's growth over half a century. Among other things, he both designed and oversaw the development of a 30-year master plan to modernize the school's heating, venting and air-conditioning systems.

But we remember him most as the go-to guy for weather, the expert who always had the vital facts at his fingertips. We join friends and family in mourning his loss.

Bill Culp kept meticulous records of local rainfall and temperatures for more than 50 years.