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Slain S.C. pastor Pinckney was ‘a giant, a legend’

By Matthew Diebel/USA Today
On June 29, 2015
Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Clementa Pinckney in the PBS documentary “The African Americans: Many Rivers To Cross With Henry Louis Gates Jr.” that aired in 2012. He was among nine African Americans killed at racial motivated attact at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Credit: PBS Hour/PBS/Courtesy Image

“He was a giant, a legend, a moral compass.”

Those are the words used by fellow state senator Marlon Kimpson on CNN Thursday morning to describe the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor and politician who was among nine people killed when gunman Dylann Roof opened fire last Wednesday evening at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Those killed were: Cynthia Hurd, 54; The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45; Depayne Middleton Doctor, 49; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Ethel Lance, 70; Susie Jackson, 87; The Rev. Daniel Simmons, 74; and Myra Thompson, 59.

Rutherford, who has served in the State Legislature with Pinckney since 1998, told the New York Times that his colleague was “a man driven by public service” whose booming voice inspired his congregation and constituents.

Pinckney, 41, was married with two children and had served in the State Senate since 2000, according to an online biography on the church’s website.

The pastor was a magna cum laude graduate of Allen University with a degree in business administration and went on to earn a master’s degree in the same subject at the University of South Carolina, the site said. He then obtained a master’s of divinity from the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

According to Rutherford and the website, Pinckney started preaching at 13 and received his first appointment to be a pastor at 18. At 23, he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives – the youngest state legislator in South Carolina history, and in 2000 was elected to the State Senate. Washington Post columnist David Broder called Pinckney a “political spirit lifter for surprisingly not becoming cynical about politics,” the site said.

A black mourning cloth was draped over Pinckney’s seat in the senate chamber in the capital, Columbia, last Wednesday, according to news reports.

In 1999, Ebony Magazine named Pinckney as one of 30 African-American leaders of the future. He leaves his wife, Jennifer, and two children, Eliana and Malana.

State Rep. Wendell Gilliard told the Charleston Post and Courier that he visited Pinckney’s wife and daughters after the shooting saying that the family is “surrounded by friends.”

In April, Pinckney, along with civil rights activist Rev. Al Sharpton, helped lead a prayer vigil for Walter Scott, a Black South Carolina man who was shot dead by a police officer as he tried to run away.

The church is one of the nation’s oldest Black congregations. It is housed in a 1891 Gothic Revival building which is considered a historically significant building. According to the National Park Service, the church is the oldest Black congregation south of Baltimore.

The congregation was formed by Black members of Charleston’s Methodist Episcopal Church who broke away “over disputed burial ground,” according to the Park Service’s website.

In 1822, one of the church’s co-founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to start a slave rebellion in Charleston, the website added. The plot was discovered and 35 people were executed, including Vesey.

The Rev. Joseph Darby of the AME Church in Beaufort, South Carolina, described Pinckney as “an advocate for the people.” He told MSNBC that “he was a very caring and competent pastor, and he was a very brave man. Brave men sometimes die difficult deaths.”

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