My first job in radio out of college was to read newscasts in Savannah, where I was a practically clueless 22 year old.
I remember getting assigned to a story early in my tenure there in neighboring Jasper County, South Carolina. Our news director at the time told me that a young State Senator, not much older than I, was getting ready to announce changes to a highly dysfunctional and often joked about election commission there.
The first thing I remember about my meeting with him is that I could not believe how young that senator was. He spoke eloquently, and made me feel like he probably studied way more diligently in college than I did.
That man was Clementa Pinckney, and that day I remember him taking decisive yet compromising action to fix a problem with origins that probably predated his birth. It was more than ten years ago, but one thing that I still remember is that everybody thought he did the right thing, even members of the opposing political party.
Over the next few years, I would see Senator Pinckney from time to time at press conferences, civic events, and even in Columbia when I would meet with the board South Carolina Associated Press. I didn’t have a close personal relationship with him, but I always noticed how respected he was by everyone he came in contact with. Some political pundits even thought he could one day be Governor. I enjoyed watching from a distance (first in New Orleans, and then later in Atlanta) how he grew into an extremely influential voice in the South Carolina State Senate.
I cannot speak for his family, friends and members of his congregation, because I do not know them. But I do know that his death is a major loss for the state of South Carolina, and particularly his hometown of Ridgeland, of which he is probably one of its most successful native sons.