Charleston Church Shooting: Slain Pastor and Senator, Clementa Pinckney, Described as ‘a Giant, a Legend’

Rev. Clementa Pinckney is among the 9 people killed in Charleston church shooting.
Rev. Clementa Pinckney is among the 9 people killed in Charleston church shooting.

“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 a gunman, believed to be white, opened fire Wednesday evening at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.

Pinckney’s sister also died in the shooting, said J. Todd Rutherford, the minority leader of the state’s House of Representatives. Her name has not been released, and the other victims, two men and five women, were not immediately identified.

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 as 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, Thursday.

In 1999, Ebony magazine named Pinckney as one of 30 African-American leaders of the future. He and his wife, Jennifer, have 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, and said that the family is “surrounded by friends.”

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Matthew Diebel

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