‘This is a monumental and proud day for us all’: Government building named in Sen. Pinckney's honor
Hundreds of people were again joined together in Sen. Clementa Pinckney’s honor. It was a fitting way to recognize the former senator.
Friday afternoon a crowd of elected officials, members of Pinckney’s family – including his father, John – former teachers and classmates and county residents gathered at the courtyard between the courthouse and the government building in Ridgeland to recognize Sen. Pinckney, who was one of nine people killed June 17, 2015 in the shooting at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
The shooting stunned the country and the county, but the intended race war did not materialize. Instead the tragedy brought people together and fostered goodwill.
“Evil did not prevail. His death was not in vain, but a tragic event that day brought our nation closer together,” Jasper County Council Chairman Marty Sauls said during Friday’s ceremony.
As Sauls began counting down to the moment when two plaques were to be unveiled recognizing the renaming of the building, he stopped and asked for everybody to join in the countdown.
The crowd loudly obliged. Another moment of unity.
“This is everybody’s day,” Sauls said.
County Council Vice Chairman Tom Johnson and Councilwoman Barbara Clark then pulled the strings that revealed the plaques that officially marked the naming of the Jasper County Clementa C. Pinckney Government Building.
Pinckney, a 1991 graduate of Jasper County High School, was elected to the South Carolina Legislature in 1996 at age 23. He began representing Jasper County in the state Senate in 2000. He preached at St. John AME Church in Ridgeland and was the pastor at Emanuel AME Church.
He was 41 when he was killed, but his contributions were remembered by his family and Congressman Jim Clyburn.
Hilda Stevenson-Stewart, Pinckney’s cousin, spoke on behalf Pinckney’s widow, Jennifer, who was unable to attend.
“This is a monumental and proud day for us all,” she said. “His legacy and life still lives on. We are all inspired by his integrity, passion and love of God.”
Clyburn said he met first Pinckney at Allen University, where Pinckney graduated from in 1995.
“When I first met him, I knew I was meeting somebody special,” he said.
He admired Pinckney’s desire to always seek to do what was right and praised Pinckney by citing biblical passages. Clyburn’s message was of Pinckney’s humility and compassion.
“Everyone can follow in the example of Clementa Pinckney and show compassion,” said Clyburn, noting stories of Jesus sending 72 disciples to preach and the Good Samaritan. “If you can gather within yourself to show compassion you will be a good neighbor. Sometimes being one’s neighbor requires you to get off of your high horse and minister to the needs where we find them.”
Jasper County Council voted last June to name the building on Third Avenue in Pinckney’s honor. Friday afternoon the community remembered the events of June 17, 2015 and ensured Pinckney’s name will forever live in Jasper County.
Sauls believes Pinckney had a hand in the harmony that ensued after the shooting, and he thinks Pinckney helped bring the community together for today’s ceremony.
“God’s glory, his grace and healing hands took over the hearts and minds of our great country, our state and our county to show love, compassion, hope, unity and embrace one other,” Sauls said. “I truly believe our brother in Christ Rev. Pinckney was smiling down on each of us, saying, ‘Job well done.’ Today, I take comfort in saying our Sen. Clementa in smiling down on us today as well.”