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First Assembly of God Charleston SC

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S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a Jasper County Democrat who served in the General Assembly for 18 years, died Wednesday after a shooting in the downtown Charleston church where he was the pastor. He was 41.

Pinckney was among nine victims that Charleston police say were killed by a lone white gunman at Emanuel AME Church, one of the oldest African-American churches in the South.

“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. “He was quiet ... until he spoke with that beautiful Barry White voice. His words were always well thought out, not just words. He always stopped by to ask how you were doing and shake your hand or pat you on the back. He was a good man.”

State Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, said Pinckney went back to the AME church Wednesday after lawmakers finished work for the day in Columbia.

Kimpson said Pinckney wanted to attend a meeting to plan a conference. That meeting had ended, and some members stayed for a Bible study that the shooter participated in, Kimpson said.

Pinckney, Kimpson said, “was the moral conscience of the General Assembly.”

“He will be dearly missed, but it’s up to us as elected officials to use this as an opportunity to bring healing to the nation and double our efforts to foster race relations in the state, ” Kimpson said in an interview Thursday morning near Pinckney’s church.

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.

“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. “He was a moral leader of the Senate, and when he spoke, people listened.”

Pinckney’s desk in the state Senate was draped Thursday with black cloth, per tradition on the passing of a senator.

Pinckney was known for his extensive work on behalf of the African Methodist Episcopal church, said state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.

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