'Kind, gentle and without cynicism': tributes pour in for murdered US pastor Clementa Pinckney

Rev Clementa Pinckney had been a prodigy and leading light within the Democratic Party and the African Methodist Church in which he served.

Described as a "truly gentle, kind, and giving man" by fellow senator Vincent Sheheen, Pinckney was a prominent figure in the United States. He served as a Democratic State Senator for the Southern regions of South Carolina and he was also pastor of the church where he met his brutal end at the age of just 41.

Pinckney had sponsored legislation to ensure police officers carried video cameras in the state, following the local shooting of Walter Scott, a black man whose killing by a police officer caused outrage when video footage emerged showing him fleeing unarmed before he was shot. Civil Rights campaigner Rev Al Sharpton tweeted that Pinkney had led a prayer vigil for Scott:

This civil rights work may have made him a target, as unconfirmed reports suggest that the killer asked for Pinckney by name before his murderous attack.

Pinckney shone at an early age, preaching his first sermon at 13 and becoming a pastor at 18. He joined the South Carolina House of Representatives at the age of 23 – reportedly the youngest African-American to do so – and he joined the local Senate a few years later.

He graduated from Allen University as president of his class and student body, and then received further educational attainments in theology and administration. According to his church biography, Washington Post columnist David Broder called Pinckney a "political spirit-lifter for surprisingly not becoming cynical about politics."

His church, the 'Mother' Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, has historic roots as the first black congregation in that region, which split from another church following discrimination from white church members. 

ReutersRev Clementa Pinckney pictured at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in 2012.

When Pinckney joined the church, he said in an interview: "Loving God is never separate from loving our brothers and sisters. It's always the same." Speaking on MSNBC, Rev Joseph Darby, from a local AME Church, described Pinckney's death as a "devastating loss, and that's putting it mildly".

"He was an up and coming clergy in the AME church... He sponsored progressive legislation, and played a key role in us just getting body camera legislation passed. He was an advocate for the people. He was a very caring and competent pastor. He was a very brave man.

"He was an active pastor, and an active advocate. He was not insulting and not the loudest in the room. He knew how to take a stand... and when you do that you rankle some people who think in strange ways. So it's not surprising."

Pinckney leaves behind his wife Jennifer and two children, Eliana and Malana. When speaking of his marriage in 1999, he told a local paper of his passion for the church: "That [the ministry] is my first love. I see everything I do as an extension of the ministry. It's all about service. In the community, in the African American community, one person ought to say something and that is the minister. The minster is paid by the people. He doesn't work for a big company. He doesn't represent a particular special interest."

Darby said the congregation is left "thunderstruck" after the attack.

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