The people killed Wednesday when a gunman opened fire in a historic black Charleston, S.C., church included a mother of four, a recent college graduate, the sister of a former North Carolina lawmaker and a politician who was also the church’s pastor. The victims ages ranged from 26 to 87:
Sen. Clementa Pinckney
S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, 41, a Democrat who served in the General Assembly for 19 years, was pastor of Emanuel AME Church, one of the country’s oldest African-American churches.
“He was the most kind, gentle man in the Senate, and I am not just saying that now,” said state Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington.
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State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said Pinckney went back to the AME church Wednesday after lawmakers finished work for the day in Columbia.
Earlier this year, Pinckney helped build support for a bill that will pave the way for S.C. police officers to have body cameras, a proposal that gained momentum after Walter Scott, an unarmed North Charleston black man, was shot and killed by a police officer earlier this year.
“It was his speech on the Senate floor about togetherness and belief that we can do better that brought the body-camera bill to passage and garnered largely bipartisan support,” Kimpson said.
As both a pastor and a politician, he kept the people he served in focus at all times, added former Rep. Bakari Sellers, a Pinckney friend who unsuccessfully ran for lieutenant governor last year.
“He advocated for those who didn’t have a voice,” said Sellers who represented a portion of poor, rural Colleton County along with Pinckney. “We represented people who didn’t have much. His voice was so deep because he was speaking for so many people.”
On his Instagram account, Tywanza Sanders, 26, called himself a poet, artist and businessman, according to the Associated Press. His photos were filled with friends, smiles, family members and motivational quotes.
Sanders graduated last year from Allen University, in Columbia, S.C., where he studied business.
Hours before the shooting, he put up his final post, a meme with a quote from Jackie Robinson, the Associated Press reports. It read: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Some news accounts have reported that he jumped in front of a relative once shots rang out.
“He loved people. He loved his school. He loved his friends,” Aaron McCoy of Charlotte said. “He just loved having a good time.”
DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49, was an admissions coordinator at Southern Wesleyan University’s Charleston learning center, according to the university’s website. She held a bachelor’s degree in biology from Columbia College, a master’s in organizational management from Southern Wesleyan, was previously manager of Charleston’s Census Bureau office and was a retired pastor.
She was also mother to four daughters, one of whom is a Johnson C. Smith University volleyball player and senior, Gracyn Doctor.
Doctor was also working to become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal church, regularly attending mid-week prayer meetings at Emanuel AME Church, Associated Press reports.
Gracyn Doctor, a middle hitter for the women’s volleyball team was named second team All-CIAA. She had already left campus for the summer.
“It’s been a rough day for the Johnson C. Smith family,” said Charlotte businessman Ken Koontz, a JCSU graduate. “It kept getting worse all day.”
Latrice Smalls described her cousin as a “songstress” who began singing as a girl, particularly gospel music, and performed for her church and family.
JSCU spokeswoman Sherri Belfield at least two other graduates lost relatives in the shooting. As of late Thursday, the university wasn’t releasing names.
The shooting also claimed the life of Cynthia Hurd, 54, sister to former state Sen. Malcolm Graham.
Graham grew up in Charleston and as a boy attended Emanuel AME Church, where his mother sang in the choir. He came to Charlotte in 1981 to go to JCSU, and stayed. In 2009, he became a special assistant to President Ron Carter, presiding over the redevelopment of the university’s surrounding neighborhoods.
Hurd worked as a librarian for 31 years and was regional manager of the St. Andrews branch of the Charleston County Public Library, Graham said in an interview the Observer. She also served on the Charleston Housing Authority since 1995, according to the Post and Courier in Charleston.
All 16 Charleston libraries were closed Thursday in her honor.
Graham remembered his sister on Thursday as a mother figure and “nerd” who encouraged him to run for public office again after he lost his 2014 bid for the 12th Congressional District seat to U.S. Rep. Alma Adams.
Coleman-Singleton, 45, was a part-time minister at Emanuel AME Church and worked as a speech pathologist at Goose Creek High School, where she also coached the girls track team.
A mother of three, she had run track herself as a student at South Carolina State University and helped lead her team to a conference championship, the Associated Press reports. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and earned a master’s degree from Montclair State in her native New Jersey, according to the Charleston Post and Courier.
“She was a bulldog when it came to her kids,” Goose Creek Principal Jimmy Huskey told the newspaper. “She cared about her kids. She was a true team player, but she always wanted more for her kids.”
Jackson, 87, was a longtime member of Emanuel AME Church and sang in the choir, according to the Associated Press. She and Ethel Lance were cousins. She had recently visited relatives in Cleveland, Ohio.
Tim Jackson, Lance’s grandson, told a Cleveland ABC News affiliate that Jackson was a loving, giving person with a great smile. The Associated Press reported that she was fond of playing slot machines, and planned to attend a church-sponsored bus trip to Chicago on Sunday.
Ethel Lance, 70, grew up in Charleston and raised five children, according to the Charleston Post and Courier. She worked as a custodian at the church for about 30 years, but on Wednesday was there as a member.
She lost her husband in 1988, the newspaper reports, and a daughter to cancer in 2013. A living daughter, Ethel Lance, told the newspaper her mother was a “strong woman who just tried to keep her family together.”
She had seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, the Associated Press reports.
She enjoyed dressing up and taking her family to see performances at Charleston’s Gaillard Municipal Auditorium, where she worked from 1968 until 2002.
The Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Sr.
The 74-year-old Simmons was a member of the ministerial staff at Emanuel AME Church. He died at the Medical University of South Carolina.
Simmons, who had been retired from another Charleston church, was a member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity.
Thompson, 59, was a pastor at the church where she was killed. According to a Facebook post, she was wife to the Rev. Anthony Thompson, vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Staff writers Jonathan McFadden, David Perlmutt, Jane Wester and Langston Taylor contributed to this report. The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The State newspaper and The New York Times contributed