Senator was advocate for the poor
COLUMBIA -- Sickle cell foundations across South Carolina are funded today because of Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s efforts, according to Sen. Darrell Jackson, D-Richland County.
The Jasper County senator, who was gunned down Wednesday night in the historic black church where he was a minister, had also advocated for the Medicaid expansion, AIDs testing programs, food stamp recipients, ETV, and measures to combat human trafficking. Authorities have said nine, including Pinckney, were killed, and that a 21-year-old white man, Dylann Roof, is in custody.
“We need more Clementa Pinckneys. It is my goal that more Clementa Pinckneys step up, and people that run for office don’t run for office just to get headlines, just to have their names in lights,” said Jackson after the Senate adjourned for lunch Thursday.
“He’s now gone. But we can truly say that even at 41 years old, this young man has made a tremendous difference.”
Jackson said the attack in Charleston could have happened at his church here in Richland County. The combination of being a minister and an elected official brings added risks, although Jackson did not specifically emphasize race as an element.
Jackson, who is also an African American minister, said he has received so many threats over the years that the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division maintains a file on him. The threats were most intense after a bitter debate at the State House over whether to remove the Confederate flag from the Capitol, he said. In fact, added Jackson, a man is serving time in prison for threatening him years ago.
The lawmaker recalled a particularly chilling incident years ago.
A man came to his front door and told his wife he was planning to rape her and kill the whole family.
Jackson, who introduced hate-crime legislation in recent years, said he will refile his bill.
“In light of what has happened with Sen. Pinckney, perhaps it will get more traction,” said Jackson.
“It sends a message for us as a state, like the body cameras (law) did, that we will not tolerate that. Not passing that bill could also send a very sad message. But I am confident that my colleagues will do the right thing.”
On Thursday several members of the Senate wept after giving floor speeches, before leaving the chamber to accept hugs and to comfort others waiting in the lobby. Guns are not permitted inside the S.C. State House.
Sen. Larry Martin, a Pickens County Republican, choked on the Senate floor as he spoke of his slain colleague, calling it a privilege to have served with Pinckney.
“I thought back to the words of a great preacher, which we’ve all known Clem to be, that we don’t know what the future holds. But we know who holds the future,” said Martin.
“Clem claimed that promise. He lived that promise out.”
Damon Jeter, a lobbyist and Richland County Councilman, said the killing of Pinckney felt like a modern day assassination, similar to Martin Luther King, Jr., given how many people the senator from Jasper County had reached.
“You respected him so much, but he did not require it,” said Jeter.
“Even if the (Senate chamber) bell was ringing, and if you said, ‘Senator Pinckney,’ he would stop in his tracks and listen to you.”