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A pastor who first heard the call at 13 -- one of Charleston's 9 victims

He was youngest black person ever elected to S.C. legislature

Don Melvin | 6/18/2015, 10:14 a.m.
Clementa Pinckney died Wednesday doing the work he had always felt was right for him to do.
Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, Pastor at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and a state representative for South Carolina, was shot and killed during a shooting at the church on Wednesday night, June 18, 2015, which claimed the lives of eight others. (From Clementa C. Pinckney)

— Clementa Pinckney died Wednesday doing the work he had always felt was right for him to do.

He was spreading the Biblical word when he and eight others were gunned down on Wednesday in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Pinckney, who was 42, first answered the call to preach nearly 30 years ago, at the age of 13, according to a biography on the church website.

And he was, it appears, a high achiever all his life. He was first appointed a pastor when he was 18. He graduated from Allen University -- magna cum laude, of course. He had been president of the student body, as well.

Ebony Magazine included him as one of its "Top College Students in America."

'Not cynical about politics'

In 1996, at the age of 23, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, the youngest black person ever elected to the the Legislature in South Carolina. Four years later, at the age of 27, he was elected to the state Senate.

There, the national recognition of his achievements continued. Washington Post columnist David Broder called Pinckney a "political spirit lifter for surprisingly not becoming cynical about politics."

Pinckney's cousin, state Sen. Kent Williams, said the shooting was something he could never have imagined.

"He was a man of character," Williams said of Pinckney. "He was a God-fearing man. He was a family man."

"He had a passion for helping the poor, for helping to improve the quality of life for all mankind," Williams said. "But especially those who are the least among us."

Pinckney left a wife, Jennifer, and two children, Eliana and Malana.

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