South Carolina Senator Killed in Charleston Shooting

June 18th 2015

Sarah Gray

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney was killed on Wednesday night in a mass shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina that left nine people dead. Pinckney was a pastor at the church and South Carolina State Senator.

Pinckney -- remembered by his strong voice -- was compelled by a desire to serve his community, according to the New York Times. He began preaching at the age of 13 and became a pastor at age 18. Early in his career, urged by his then-fiancee Jennifer, Pinckney entered politics.

In a chilling speech on racism a few weeks ago, Pinckney stood in front of the South Carolina Senate in Columbia to talk about the fatal police shooting of Walter Scott and what violence has done to both the state of South Carolina and the U.S.

He was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at age 23, and later to the State Senate at age 27. In the state legislature Pinckney was a rising star in the Democratic party and was campaigning for Hillary Clinton prior to the shooting on Wednesday, according to reports.

As a senator, he called for the use of police body cameras, and he also helped lead a prayer group in April after the shooting of Walter Scott, an unarmed Black man, by a white officer.

"Body cameras help to record what happens," Pinckney said according to the Guardian. "It may not be the golden ticket, the golden egg, the end-all-fix-all, but it helps to paint a picture of what happens during a police stop."

Pinckney was also the father of two daughters Eliana and Malana. He graduated from Allen University and received a master's degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina, and a master of divinity at Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.

“I see everything I do as an extension of the ministry,” Pinckney said in a 1999 article in the Savannah Morning News. “It’s all about service. In the community, in the African-American community, one person ought to say something and that is the minister. The minister is paid by the people. He doesn’t work for a big company. He doesn’t represent a particular special interest.”

The below speech given by Pinckney in 2013 captures not only the incredible history of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, but also Pinckney's spirit of serving the community.

A portion of the speech is transcribed here:
"Could we not argue that America is about freedom whether we live it out or not? But it's really about freedom, equality and the pursuit of happiness. And that is what church is all about: freedom to worship and freedom from sin, freedom to be full of what God intends us to be, and to have equality in the sight of God. And sometimes you got to make noise to do that. Sometimes you may even have to die like Denmark Vesey to do that. Sometimes you have to march, struggle and be unpopular to do that."