On Wednesday morning, Judi Gatson of Watch WIS News Columbia reported that one of the most beloved South Carolina basketball fans of all-time had passed away as Carlton Thompson finished his battle with prostate cancer.
South Carolina basketball fans all know Carlton Thompson, even if they might not recognize his name. Fans from other programs might know him, too, as USAToday published a story about his dream-come-true trip to the Final Four in 2017.
At most USC home games in recent seasons, a familiar fan has been seen (and heard) on the baseline at Colonial Life Arena, throwing his Carolina flag, waving his towel, stomping his Croc-clad feet, and cheering on his beloved Gamecocks. His fandom could be traced back to the late ’60s as a younger version of himself witnessed John Roche hit a game-winner against the Auburn Tigers.
Affectionally known as Gamecock Jesus or Baseline Jesus because of his long hair and beard, it was Thompson’s character that most resembled his namesake.
A nursing school graduate of the University of South Carolina, Thompson was known for his fandom, but what some didn’t know about him was how much he cared about people.
On numerous occasions, Thompson brought children from the community with him to basketball games. He often could be seen hopping off a kid-filled bus, leading his charges into Colonial Life Arena for a Gamecock basketball experience.
He also was among the kindest people in every room he entered. A popular figure at South Carolina basketball games, he always had time for pictures with other fans.
Since his passing, prominent Gamecock names have offered tributes to the life and memory of Thompson.
While South Carolina basketball games were his biggest stage, Thompson was often seen at other sporting events, as well. Football games at Williams-Brice Stadium, baseball series, and even SEC volleyball matchups were no strangers to Thompson’s big-time fandom.
Carlton Thompson was diagnosed with prostate cancer last winter, and his passing is a loss both for his family and his extended Gamecock family.
Hopefully, the University of South Carolina will find a way to honor Thompson, perhaps with a Gamecock flag hanging from the rafters of Colonial Life Arena.
He was 69 years old.