Prayer gathering honors Sen. Pinckney, memory of county dignitaries
Subheadline: Turpin Park hosts remembrance of 2-year anniversary of Charleston church shooting
A small bell was struck, candles were lit and a group of officials and residents held hands in memory of Sen. Clementa Pinckney, the Emanuel Nine and seven Jasper County dignitaries.
The two-year anniversary of the Charleston church shooting is Saturday, but the Rev. Renty Kitty and Ridgeland resident Ladenier Mitchell hosted a prayer gathering Friday at Turpin Park in Ridgeland in recognition of the tragedy.
Mitchell and Kitty wanted to honor Pinckney, a county native, and also the memory of others who greatly impacted Jasper County.
Kitty lit candles and Jasper County Councilman Theo Drayton tolled the bell for Pinckney, James “Jimmy” Rhodes, Edith Drayton, Ralph Tuten, Henry Moss, Claude Dean and James and Cathy Gardner.
Rhodes was the former manager and vice president of First National Bank and senior vice president of South Carolina Bank & Trust; Drayton, Theo’s sister, was the county’s head of human resources for 30 years; Moss served as former county administrator and mayor of Ridgeland; Tuten was a former Ridgeland mayor; Dean served as chairman of the Jasper County Aeronautics Commission; James Gardner was a former Jasper County School District athletic director; and Cathy Gardner served on the school board.
“They’re truly hometown heroes, people we can aspire to be like,” pastor Henry Criss said. “All of them were more concerned about the people around them than their own notoriety.”
Drayton remembered his sister as someone who “believed in what she believed in.”
Pinckney was 41 when he and eight other churchgoers were shot and killed at Emanuel AME Church June 17, 2015.
Mitchell was a childhood friend of Pinckney’s. She said his rise to the Statehouse in Columbia ensured someone was looking out for the county.
“We always knew we had him in our corner,” she said. “He is certainly missed throughout Jasper County.”
Mitchell said on Father’s Day weekend her thoughts were also with all the families of the victims, Pinckney’s wife Jennifer and his two daughters, Eliana and Malana.
“It was a great loss for his children,” she said.
The gathering included Jasper County Detention Center Director Arthur Benjamin Jr., probate judge Buster Kleckley, and Rep. Bill Bowers.
Benjamin urged everyone to strive for harmony.
“I know there’s a rainbow behind us. Continue praying for peace,” he said.