Who Was Clementa Pinckney? 7 Things You Need To Know About This Charleston Massacre Victim


Yesterday, Clementa Pinckney, a senior paster at the A.M.E. Church in Charleston, A Democrat senator of the city, and a civil right leader, was laid to rest. Pinckney was shot in last week’s Charleston Massacre. He is survived by his wife and two children, so indeed as those close to him would probably attest – his most important personal titles were “father” and “husband.”

Pinckney however, contributed a lot to his Charleston community and some of his ideas to make his home a better place, and the world at large, should continue to be given audience. Indeed, his hope in a better America is something that those who knew him and who believe in the same ideals, should continue to work towards. Here are some facts about Pinckney that you should know:

1. Pinckney was the youngest Black American ever elected to the South Carolina legislature. He began his tenure in the House in 1996 at the ripe young age of 23, was then elected to the Senate at 27. This means he served in the legislature for nineteen years; next year would have been his 20th anniversary. [Source]

2. As you may or may not know, the A.M.E. church has been a landmark in American history and especially Black American history, having been burned down at least twice and made illegal during America’s especially sordid racial past. That it stands today is a testament to the resilience of faith of the Black church as a site of resistance for Black American liberation. Pinckney’s mother’s side comes from a long line of pastors who have served in the A.M.E. church in Charleston, where he served since 2010. [Source]

3. He was well vested in the knowledge of history of African-Americans in the United States and in Charleston. And ultimately believed that the struggle of Black Americans is what gave real legitimacy to America’s ideals of, “Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

4. He showed support for the LGBTQ community and stood behind leaders who aimed to end some anti-gay bills that were going into the senate earlier this year. This was in the face of a South Carolina senate that was especially complex and divided on the issue. And indeed he tried to navigate a faith-based community with regard how to approach LGBTQ issues in terms of faith; his approach always being unconditional love. [Source]

5. He strongly believed in the need for criminal justice system reform, especially in the area of sentencing. He had a desire for all people caught in the criminal justice system in Charleston to be truly rehabilitated, and linked their struggles often to vicious cycles of poverty. He deemed that providing opportunity would be those in need would be the ultimate community reform. [Source]

6. Often described as a man who voiced concerns for the voiceless, he took great interest in health care, especially for the disadvantaged and for children. He sought to expand Medicaid in South Carolina, and wanted to do it with people as the focus, not politics.

7. After the death of Walter Scott, he gave a chilling speech in the Senate and talked about the necessity of justice, and the pain this death brought to the Black American community and South Carolina as a whole. In his speech, it is clear that for Pinckney, his life in public service and his work and mission as a pastor, worked alongside each other in a beautiful way.

Heroes don’t always make their names into history books. I think in the information age, this is becoming less and less true. Along with the rest of the victims, may his death remind the nation of how much work there is still to be done; may all theirs death not be in vain. Indeed we do not need anymore more people who do not ask to be martyrs; we need people alive.