He served the people, both in the church and as a state senator, and he was tragically killed in his own church during a shooting Wednesday that also took the lives of six women and two other men.
He was South Carolina pastor and state Sen. Clementa C. Pinckney, one of the victims of a terrorist attack on the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C.
The Rev. Pinckney, 41, was elected to the state Legislature in 1997 at age 23, making him one of the youngest members of the House at the time. He served as a state representative from 1997 until he later ran for the state Senate and won in 2001. He had recently met with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton while she was visiting South Carolina as part of her run for president of the United States.
A friend of Pinckney’s, trial attorney Bakari Sellers, 30, described him as an “all-around good guy” with a “bombastic” baritone voice.
Sellers, a former South Carolina state representative who served with Pinckney in the state Legislature 2006-2014, was devastated by news of the shooting. He said he was on an “emotional roller coaster,” going from meeting with former Secretary Clinton Wednesday “a few blocks away from where the shooting happen[ed]” to complete despair.
“It was tough. It is tough,” Sellers said. “It’s amazing that he was murdered while he was praying in his church because he served his people and served his Lord; all we can do is keep praying. I really don’t know. I’m tired. It’s something every week. I’m not sure what we’ll do, but we have prayer.”
According to the South Carolina Statehouse, Pinckney represented Allendale, Beaufort, Charleston, Colleton, Hampton and Jasper counties in South Carolina, districts that included some of the poorest parts of the state.
He was born in Beaufort, S.C., July 30, 1973, the son of John and Theopia Pinckney. He also attended Allen University and Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He is survived by his wife, Jennifer, and their two children, Eliana and Malana. Pinckey also sat on the board of directors of the Southern Mutual Insurance Co.
Pinckney was also one of the lead co-sponsors of a body-camera bill for police officers and was an advocate for economic development in Jasper County. In addition, Pinckney helped lead a prayer vigil after the police-shooting death of Walter Scott.
The shooting has been called a “hate crime” by local law enforcement.
Said Sellers of this latest tragedy, “It’s just tough; every black man and women are just under attack. If you can’t be black in the church, where can you be black?”