CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) — One was a longtime librarian looking forward to retirement. Another had recently graduated from college with a business degree. At least two died in the church that they had attended for decades.
A closer look at some of the nine lives that were cut short by the gunman who opened fire in a black church in downtown Charleston:
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Clementa Pinckney, 41, was the beloved pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the country’s oldest black churches, and had been a state legislator for 19 years.
Just one year after graduating from Allen University in 1995, Pinckney became, at 23, the youngest African-American elected to the South Carolina Legislature. In 2000, he was elected to the state Senate.
He earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina in 1999 and studied at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
A native of Beaufort, Pinckney began preaching at age 13 and was first appointed pastor at 18. He was named pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church in 2010, according to the state Democratic Party.
“He had a core not many of us have,” said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who sat beside him in Senate chambers. “I think of the irony that the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us in this chamber — is the one who lost his life.”
He is survived by his wife and two children.
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, was a part-time minister at Emanuel AME Church and worked as a speech pathologist at Goose Creek High School, where she was also the girls track coach.
Principal Jimmy Huskey said she was so dedicated she was at work before 8 a.m. and typically didn’t leave until 8 p.m.
“She had a big smile,” Huskey said. “Her No. 1 concern was always the students. She made a difference in the lives of children. She cannot be replaced here at this school.”
The mother of three had run track herself as a student at South Carolina State University, helping lead her team to a conference championship.
Ethel Lance, 70, was a Charleston native who had been a member of the church for most of her life. She retired after working for more than 30 years on the housekeeping staff at the city’s Gaillard Auditorium.
She had served as a sexton at the church for the last five years, helping to keep the historic building clean. She was also a lover of gospel music.
“She was a God-fearing woman,” said granddaughter Najee Washington, 23, who lived with Lance. “She was the heart of the family, and she still is. She is a very caring, giving and loving woman. She was beautiful inside and out.”
Lance had five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Susie Jackson, 87, was a longtime church member and sang in the choir. She and Ethel Lance were cousins. Jackson had recently visited her son and grandchildren in Cleveland, Ohio.
Tim Jackson told Cleveland television station WEWS that his grandmother was a loving, giving woman with a great smile.
“It’s just hard to process that my grandmother had to leave Earth this way,” he said. “It’s real, real hard. It’s challenging because I don’t believe she deserved to go this way.”
Susie Jackson, who was fond of playing slot machines, was scheduled to go on a church-sponsored bus trip to Chicago on Sunday and was looking forward to going to the top of the Willis Tower, said Jean Jackson, an associate member of the church.
Susie Jackson’s niece, Cynthia Taylor, told The Associated Press that she spoke with one of the women who survived the shooting at the church, whom she identified as Felecia Sanders. She said Sanders told her that she lay on top of her granddaughter and played dead while the shooter was still there.
Cynthia Hurd’s brother took some comfort in knowing that his sister died in the church she grew up in and loved.
Hurd, 54, was the manager of one of the busiest branches of the Charleston County library system. In her honor, the system closed all 16 of its branches Thursday, the day after her death.
She grew up in Charleston, and her mother made sure they went Emanuel AME Church on Sundays, Wednesdays and any other time it was open, said her brother Malcom Graham, a former state senator from North Carolina.
“I wasn’t surprised on a Wednesday night she was there,” Graham said Thursday.
Hurd’s husband is a merchant sailor currently at sea near Saudi Arabia. Graham was trying to help him get home.
When Graham spoke to his sister last weekend, she said she couldn’t wait for her 55th birthday on Sunday, he said.
She was also looking toward retirement after 31 years of library work. The library issued a statement remembering Hurd as “a tireless servant of the community who spent her life helping residents, making sure they had every opportunity for an education and personal growth.”
DEPAYNE MIDDLETON DOCTOR
Whether she was working with college students or Charleston’s poorest residents, DePayne Middleton-Doctor wanted to be in a position to help people.
So co-workers weren’t surprised when she decided to become a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
“She was a woman of God,” said Joel Crawford, who worked with Middleton-Doctor at Southern Wesleyan University’s campus in Charleston. “She was strong in her faith.”
Middleton-Doctor, a 49-year-old mother of four daughters, just started her job as an enrollment counselor at the university in December, said Crawford, who worked with her as a student services coordinator.
Before that, Middleton-Doctor had been employed for several years by Charleston County, where she helped administer grants aimed at helping the county’s poorest residents with problems they couldn’t otherwise afford to fix such as repairing roofs or septic tanks, said J. Elliott Summey, chairman of the Charleston County Council. He said she left her county job in 2005.
Crawford said Middleton-Doctor often went to midweek prayer meetings at Emanuel AME Church as she worked toward becoming a minister.
Tywanza Sanders, 26, graduated last year from Allen University, where he studied business. In a news release, the school described Sanders as “a quiet, well-known student” with “a warm and helpful spirit.”
On his Instagram account, Sanders called himself a poet, artist and businessman. His photos were filled with friends, smiles, family members and motivational quotes.
Hours before the shooting, he put up his final post, a meme with a quote from Jackie Robinson: “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.”
Associated Press writers Jeffrey Collins in Charleston, Tamara Lush in Tampa, Florida, and Michael Biesecker in Durham, North Carolina, contributed to this report.