Governor’s Mansion Valet Killed In Car Crash

CHAMBERLAIN BRANCH SERVED S.C. FIRST FAMILIES FOR MORE THAN A DECADE Chamberlain Branch, a longtime valet at the S.C. Governor’s Mansion, was killed early Friday morning when a suspect fleeing Cayce S.C. police officers ran a red light and slammed his vehicle into the minivan Branch was driving. The driver…


Chamberlain Branch, a longtime valet at the S.C. Governor’s Mansion, was killed early Friday morning when a suspect fleeing Cayce S.C. police officers ran a red light and slammed his vehicle into the minivan Branch was driving.

The driver of the vehicle being pursued by police was also killed.

News of the crash was first reported by WLTX TV 19 (CBS – Columbia, S.C.).  According to the station, “the driver of a 2011 Hyundai was being chased by Cayce Police when (they) ran a red light at Blossom and Huger streets. The Hyundai hit a Ford minivan. Both drivers are dead.”

Chamberlain Branch

Branch is survived by his wife, Cherisse, and three children.  He’s also survived by another set of children – Mark and Jenny Sanford’s four boys; Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake.

“He helped raise those boys and they loved him,” our source at the Governor’s Mansion said.

A tireless worker, gregarious personality and trusted keeper of confidences, Branch has been meeting the day-to-day needs of South Carolina’s first families for more than a decade – working long, irregular hours for very little money.

Branch was beloved by those who worked with him.

“He was one of the kindest people I’ve ever met,” former gubernatorial communications director Chris Drummond said.  “His young children and family are in my thoughts and prayers.”

Former Gov. Mark Sanford was informed of the crash earlier Friday morning, reportedly describing the news as “horrible.”

Staffers were waiting to tell former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford, who is currently among the five finalists for a U.S. Senate seat.

Current S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley issued a statement late Friday on behalf of her family regarding Branch’s death.

“We are heartbroken and feel an incredible loss with Chamberlain’s passing,” Haley said.  “Everyone who knew him loved him. His smile and laugh were contagious. He was a very special part of our family, and his gentle soul, good humor, and care will always be treasured memories for each of us. We ask that all South Carolinians lift up in prayer Chamberlain’s wife Cherisse and their three children during this difficult time.”

UPDATE: Sources close to former S.C. First Lady Jenny Sanford say that she has been informed of Branch’s untimely death, and that she has been a “real saint” to his wife Cherise.


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Lance Riprock December 14, 2012 at 8:15 am

Why were the Cayce police chasing the Hyundai? Isn’t that intersection quite a distance from Cayce? Don’t they have radios? Ever heard of a BOLO? (Be On Look Out) I hope it wasn’t small potatoes like a gas station drive-off. God bless Mr. Branch and his family.

Not the cops fault December 14, 2012 at 10:10 am

No, actually the intersection is less than a half a mile from the Cayce “line”. Its just across the Knox Abbot bridge Its not too far. Instead of asking why they were chasing him, ask why was the guy causing the chase. You maybe thinking of West Columbia which is 5 miles from there, but Cayce is with in a football throw from it. Cayce’s main rd or st is in fact Blossom St. itself, it just changes names at the bridge to Knox Abbot. Either way though I pray for thye family.

vicupstate December 14, 2012 at 8:18 am

You mean there are state employees that aren’t leaching off the public ???!!
Ones that work long odd hours for little pay? That do their jobs in service to the public??!!

Do tell. You know SIC, if you actually tried, you might find more just like him.

Condolences to this man’s family and may he rest in peace. I respect that he did yeoman service for our citizens, and thank him for that.

Smirks December 14, 2012 at 9:45 am

Nah, that was just a fluke. This guy was a hard working innocent guy, but let’s go back to stereotyping and dehumanizing the rest of government employees (except cops, of course!) as shiftless lazy bureaucrats making huge gobs of money doing nothing.

Fuck Cayce Police December 14, 2012 at 8:19 am

Cayce cops are ridiculous. I really hope it wasn’t something stupid they were trying to pull the person who fled for.

I'llBeYourHuckleberry December 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm

Are you friggin serious?!?!? I don’t care if they were trying to pull him for throwing a gum wrapper out the window, it’s the a$$hole that ran from the cops fault, and not the police.

There has been A LOT of dumb shit posted in the comments section on this site, but you take the cake my friend.

Frank December 14, 2012 at 8:24 am

Damn. He was a great dude. So sad.

Fleet December 14, 2012 at 8:31 am

Requiescat in pace

SparkleCity December 14, 2012 at 8:35 am

To the family and friends of Mr. Branch:

By the descriptions above, I am sure he was a good, kind and understanding man.

I am truly sorry for your loss.

Sunny P December 14, 2012 at 8:40 am

I am so sad to hear this! Chamberlain was one of the nicest, most thoughtful men I have ever known. He never forgot a face and always greeted you like a long, lost friend. My heart breaks for his family, but those of us who knew him are certainly better because of it.

Doris December 14, 2012 at 8:46 am

This is so horrible. We LOVE Chamberlain. He absolutely loved the Sanford boys like his own two children. He loved Nikki’s children also. He was one of the finest people I have ever personally known in state government. My heart goes out to Nancy Bunch – also one of the best state employees ever. Nancy and Chamberlain were such a great team. Nancy is the curator of the Mansion complex.

Wondering December 14, 2012 at 9:02 am

Very Sad

Simple Answer December 14, 2012 at 9:36 am

Such a tragedy and loss. Chamberlain was a man of integrity and carried such a kind and humble spirit. He will be greatly missed by many. My heart and prayers go out to his family and co-workers.

Very Sad December 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

This is so horrible. Had the pleasure of knowing and interacting with Chamberlain. So sorry for his family, and all those who loved him through his dedicated work with the Governors Mansion. Deep condolences to his family, the Sanfords, the Haleys, their staffs and his staff at the Mansion. What a tragic way to end such a good life.

Smirks December 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

Aren’t cops supposed to call off chases if they think that the chase puts other people in danger? Better be a damn good reason they were chasing this guy.

Sorry for the loss his family and friends will have to endure.

you tell me December 14, 2012 at 5:50 pm

running a red light with phony tags. had crack cocaine with him and a stolen gun. just 5 hours before someone was shot and killed less than 2 blocks from there too on whaley st. which huger turns into . possible suspect to that. good enough for you?

Matt Moore December 14, 2012 at 9:49 am

Chamberlain was a class act all the way around. Our hearts ache this morning for he and his family.

junior justice December 14, 2012 at 9:56 am

I did not know this man but I am pleased that other commentators on this site have the goodness of heart to express their condolences.

The daily give and take of the comments posted (no matter how harsh, cruel, or silly) can be put aside to show compassion for a decent human being and his family.

My faith in humanity is being maintained.

carrie December 14, 2012 at 10:12 am

This is so sad, especially at this time of year. I do not know him, but from reading the posts he sounded like a wonderful human being.

My condolences to his family, the Sanford and Haley families for their great loss.

Thomas December 14, 2012 at 10:13 am

This is a truly sad, tragic story. Such a shame.

junior justice December 14, 2012 at 10:19 am

to smirks: I have participated in several police and sheriff citizens academy courses – and you are generally correct.

It depends upon the circumstances, the judgment of the individual officers in pursuit, and the supervising commander at headquarters.

These pursuits usually begin instantaneously and the officers can get adrenalin rushes. An experienced and mature officer will handle it better.

I’ve been involved in one hot pursuit (as a ride-along) where there was no time to drop me at a safe location. You can bet that I experienced many emotions and I wasn’t required to make any decisions – just sit, watch and say a prayer.

At one point we were going 95 mph in a rural area when we crossed a railroad track at 3:30 in the am – we flew through the air just like in the movies. The officer had complete control of the entire situation. Luckily no harm came to anyone involved.

Former Sanford Staffer December 14, 2012 at 10:20 am

A real class act and an a perfect example of a realy good State employee. He will be missed by all that knew him.

Andy Schmidt December 14, 2012 at 10:22 am

My heart is heavy as I knew Chamberlin personally. I have worked in and around the Mansion and Statehouse for almost 20 years. He was one of the nicest people you would ever be lucky enough to know. God bless his family during this most difficult time. Just a real tragedy.

bogart December 14, 2012 at 11:25 am


willblogformoney December 14, 2012 at 11:26 am

Fits, how will you blame Nikki for this tragedy?

Jack December 14, 2012 at 11:36 am

May he RIP. Will, was he job a core function of government?

Mike December 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

Chamberlain was doing a core function of government. He was a voice of calm, reason and intelligence and all in a tasteful and top drawer manner. Our last two governors could have learned a lot from him. If there were more Chamberlains in Richland County SC our racial divide would be DRAMATICALLY reduced.

Mr. Perspective December 14, 2012 at 11:58 am

So if black folks would only behave like house servants, then the state would be better off?? I GET IT.

Mike December 15, 2012 at 7:18 am

Mr. Perspective: That is a pathetic response. Chamberlain was not a quiet black man working in the white Massa’s house. The point is that he had more maturity, integrity and character than many he worked with – not for. He was not a divisive member of the community like Lonny Randolph, Vince Ford, Darryl Jackson or Lillian McBride.

Mr. Perspective December 14, 2012 at 11:56 am

High speed chases CREATE imminent harm to the public.

Uncle Remus December 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm

A sad story, may the family be comforted in this time of their loss.

BradWarthenSucks December 14, 2012 at 2:47 pm

Not to be unsympathetic, but why does the governor’s mansion have a full-time valet on it’s payroll? Are the grounds so large that people can’t park their own cars?

Simple Answer December 14, 2012 at 4:59 pm

He didn’t park cars. He oversaw many facets of functions at the Mansion, including matters relating to the first family and the mansion, among other things. He did so with diligence and great character.

working man's friend December 14, 2012 at 4:55 pm

one of the finest nicest sincere people I have ever met, he will be missed

Reality December 14, 2012 at 6:58 pm

By Mr. Perspective December 14, 2012 at 11:56 am
High speed chases CREATE imminent harm to the public.

Criminals create more imminent danger than a chase. How do the police enforce the laws? Do you really believe they should just say ” oh well, this drug dealer does not want to stop , maybe I will bump into him at Walmart one day”?

Please don’t respond with something stupid like “get their tag numer and get them at home”. Nobody would ever stop except the law abiding citizens. What a society this would be!

My condolences to Mr. Branch’s family. What a senseless loss of life.

It’s a shame these lowlife criminals would endanger innocent people to avoid being accountable for their crimes.

There would be no need

Just the Facts Please December 14, 2012 at 9:28 pm

The real tragedy here is that the suspect had a long criminal history but was still out walking around free to commit more crimes!

The Help December 15, 2012 at 4:15 pm

“He’s also survived by another set of children – Mark and Jenny Sanford’s four boys; Marshall, Landon, Bolton and Blake.
“He helped raise those boys and they loved him,” our source at the Governor’s Mansion said.”

He worked long hours with minimal compensation. Much like the help out at Forest Lake Country Club. “We treat ’em just like they were one of our own.”

A genuine and humble human being has tragically passed away. I wish the affluent old school crowd would just zip it and honor his legacy.

Cantrell Branch Blakely April 22, 2024 at 8:51 am

It’s 2024, and it’s the first time I’ve read these comments. Chamberlain Branch was my brother. He was the greatest, never hurt or harmed a soul. A family man that loved his wife, children, mother, siblings and all his other family. He would give you the skin off his back if you needed it. He was also a Christian that believed and served God. His smile and kind heart will melt your soul.RIP my brother. Your love and memories live in my broken heart. Love little sis.


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