Hun­dreds mourn slain pas­tor

Los Angeles Times - - THE NATION - By Jenny Jarvie

Two white horses on Wed­nes­day car­ried Cle­menta Pinck­ney, the revered South Carolina state sen­a­tor and pas­tor who was killed along­side eight mem­bers of his Charleston church, to the Capi­tol build­ing Wed­nes­day, pass­ing the Con­fed­er­ate f lag that has sparked na­tional de­bate about Civil War sym­bols in the South.

A row of leg­is­la­tors stood un­der the build­ing ’s Corinthian gran­ite col­umns, gaz­ing down as hun­dreds of mourn­ers es­corted Pinck­ney’s ma­hogany casket into the Ro­tunda.

As nine mem­bers of the honor guard car­ried Pinck­ney into the State House, the crowd sang “We Shall Over­come.”

Ann Shephard, 65, of Columbia, S. C., stood in the 95de­gree heat in black mourn­ing clothes, sob­bing as she held up a black para­sol. “A cloud has been over me since this hap­pened,” she said. “I look at it from ev­ery an­gle and it doesn’t make sense to me.”

A long pro­ces­sion f iled pa­tiently through the Capi­tol’s lush grounds, cling­ing to the shade of pal­metto and mag­no­lia trees, and then up the stair­way of the soar­ing Ro­tunda to pay their re­spects to Pinck­ney, who lay in a cof­fin be­tween the House and Se­nate cham­bers, where he served for al­most two decades.

“This line of peo­ple, in and of it­self, sig­ni­fies the im­pact of his life,” said Rus­sell Pat­ter­son, 30, an At­lanta grad­u­ate stu­dent who had at­tended Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and who con­sid­ered Pinck­ney his big brother and men­tor as well as pas­tor. “He taught us love.”

Pinck­ney, who was lead­ing a Bi­ble study at Emanuel AME when he and the oth­ers were gunned down June 17, was elected to the South Carolina State of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives in 1996 at the age of 23, the youngest African Amer­i­can to win such a seat. Four years later, vot­ers elected him to the state Se­nate.

Dressed in a black suit, white shirt, red tie and gold cuff links, Pinck­ney’s body was sur­rounded by red roses, white lilies and eu­ca­lyp­tus.

In­side the Capi­tol, a large black drape cov­ered a win­dow with a view of the Con­fed­er­ate f lag out­side.

“He looks like he’s just sleep­ing there,” said Tiffny Pal­more, 28, a doc­tor’s as­sis­tant from Columbia who had stood in line for hours with her mother and six chil­dren. “It still doesn’t take away the pain.”

Af­ter leg­is­la­tors voted Tues­day to hold a de­bate this sum­mer about re­mov­ing the Con­fed­er­ate f lag from the Capi­tol grounds, many said their fo­cus was on griev­ing and pay­ing trib­ute to Pinck­ney.

“I’m think­ing about my friend Mr. Pinck­ney, and the amaz­ing life he lived,” said state Sen. J. Thomas McElveen III. “I’m also think­ing about the con­ver­sa­tion his loss has touched off across the state, the South and the coun­try. This has re­ally forced peo­ple in South Carolina to be hav­ing new con­ver­sa­tions we were re­luc­tant and un­will­ing to have.

“I am trou­bled that the f lag a mur­derer waved as a ban­ner of ha­tred f lies as his body lies in re­pose,” he added. “I’m not happy about that, I can tell you that.”

Still, in a leg­is­la­ture that had stead­fastly re­sisted calls to re­move the f lag, even amid a long- stand­ing NAACP boy­cott, the speed of the pas­sage of res­o­lu­tions in the House and the Se­nate to de­bate the is­sue, and by such large mar­gins, as­tounded many observers.

“It’s been quite a show,” said Don H. Doyle, McCaus­land pro­fes­sor of history at the Univer­sity of South Carolina. Deeply en­trenched at­ti­tudes in the South about the Con­fed­er­acy were chang­ing rapidly, he said, with the bat­tle f lag and other sym­bols in­creas­ingly de­fined as rad­i­cal op­po­si­tion to de­cency.

Though many said that al­low­ing the Con­fed­er­ate f lag to re­main on state grounds dur­ing the public view­ing of the slain state sen­a­tor’s casket was a sign of dis­re­spect, Doyle said he had never ex­pected the f lag to be taken down be­fore Pinck­ney lay in state.

“It’s im­por­tant for the state to come to terms with this, to have a de­bate and go through due process,” he said. “If it was just abruptly taken down, it would look dic­ta­to­rial. There will be a back­lash.”

Af­ter two more public view­ings at St. John AME Church in Ridge­land and Emanuel AME Church, Pres­i­dent Obama will de­liver the eu­logy at Pinck­ney’s public fu­neral ser­vice Fri­day in Charleston. Pinck­ney will be laid to rest at St. James AME Church in Mar­ion.

Paula Mar­shall, 51, a Columbia med­i­cal as­sis­tant, beamed as she walked through the Capi­tol grounds af­ter pay­ing re­spect to Pinck­ney and took in all the hun­dreds of peo­ple still lin­ing up. Af­ter all the heartache, she said, she couldn’t help feel­ing proud.

“Sen. Pinck­ney ac­com­plished a lot when he was liv­ing, and now he’s ac­com­plish­ing just as much in death,” she said. “This is a part of our history.”

‘ This line of [ mourn­ers], in and of it­self, sig­ni­fies the im­pact of his life. He taught us love.’ — Rus­sell Pat­ter­son, who at­tended Emanuel AME Church, where Cle­menta Pinck­ney was pas­tor

Ji m Wat­son AFP/ Getty I mages

A CAR­RIAGE trans­ports the casket of state sen­a­tor and pas­tor Cle­menta Pinck­ney to South Carolina’s Capi­tol. There will be two more view­ings of Pinck­ney’s body prior to Fri­day’s public fu­neral in Charleston.

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