The following editorial appeared in The (Hilton Head) Island Packet:
“There are many people who say why would you as a preacher, as a pastor, be involved in public life? I’ve said it before and I'll say it again. Our calling is not just within the walls of the congregation, but we are part of the life, the community in which our congregation resides.” – Sen. Clementa Pinckney, R-Jasper, in 2013
Sen. Clementa Pinckney, a senior pastor, believed you could be both a preacher and a politician.
Some thought it was an odd mix. The doubting Thomases wondered if it could be done in a way that kept the preacher honest and the politics clean.
The tall, young man from Beaufort didn’t worry about the critics. He focused instead on using the pulpit in his church and the floor in the state Senate to advocate for the least among us.
For those struggling to find jobs.
For those sick and in need of health care.
For the schoolkids in Jasper County.
He wasn’t loud about it. His baritone voice was always kept at an even keel. His approach was always humble as he gave voice to some of the state’s poorest residents.
Sometimes, his gentle nature angered his political brethren, including House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford, D-Richland.
They urged him to get loud – to get mad – about a long neglected plan to build a port in Jasper County.
Pinckney shrugged off the criticism, continuing his work in his long-accustomed way.
And so it comes as no surprise to his friends that he didn’t turn away the young man who walked into his Charleston church Wednesday night. Even though he was a stranger. Even though he was a white kid at an AME Church.
“The only thought he probably had about the strange boy who wandered into his Bible study was, ‘I wonder how I can help this young man?’” speculates Casey Bonds Martin of Columbia, a long-time lobbyist who met Pinckney 21 years ago when they were both new at the Statehouse.
Pinckney was no Doubting Thomas about the goodness of mankind and the good we could do for each other.
Helping those in trouble was never an option for him. It was a calling.
He leaves that behind. Not just here on his Lowcountry home turf but across the nation.
We have no doubt.
Pinckney used the pulpit of his church and his position in the Legislature to advocate for those in need.