President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy Friday at the Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s funeral, a White House official said.
First lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden also will travel to Charleston to attend the services for the fallen Democrat, who also served as a state senator, the official confirmed Monday.
Pinckney was one of nine people fatally shot Wednesday night during a Bible study at Emanuel AME Church.
Sources say Obama also is expected to meet with the other victims’ families during his visit.
Dylann Roof, 21, is charged with their murders and is being held at the Charleston County jail. Charleston police have classified the attack as a hate crime. Roof is white and the victims he is accused of killing are black.
Last week, Obama spoke about the killings, noting that he knew Pinckney and other Emanuel AME members personally. And he said the “senseless” murders were particularly heartbreaking because they occurred at a church where people seek solace.
“The fact that this took place in a black church obviously also raises questions about a dark part of our history,” he said. “This is not the first time that black churches have been attacked. And we know that hatred across races and faiths pose a particular threat to our democracy and our ideals.”
Pinckney’s funeral will be at 11 a.m. Friday at TD Arena at the College of Charleston. Interment will follow at St. James AME Church of Marion.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said the visit was great news.
“We see this locally as the huge, heartbreaking tragedy it is for us, but I think we don’t understand fully what a heartbreaking tragedy it is for our country,” he said. “This is a heartbreaking for the United States of America, and we’ve got a president and a first lady and a vice president who are big-hearted people, and they know that their country is grieving.”
Obama has not visited Charleston since he was seeking the Democratic nomination for president. His only other visit to South Carolina as president came earlier this year, when he spoke to a sold-out crowd at Benedict College in Columbia in March.
While Presidents George Bush and Bill Clinton visited Charleston while in office, neither spoke at a gathering as large as Pinckney’s service is expected to be.
Drivers should expect traffic congestion during and through the service. Charleston Police Department spokesman Charles Francis said Monday that there will be a traffic plan in place and that officers will make the president’s visit as easy on motorists as it can be. He added that street closures will be released later in the week.
Francis deferred any security questions about the event to the Secret Service, which declined to comment.
While Obama has not returned to Charleston since winning the White House, he famously referred to the city during his 2008 victory night speech in Chicago’s Grant Park.
“Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington. It began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and on the front porches of Charleston,” he said.
His remarks referred to an April 2007 campaign stop here. After speaking to a rally of about 1,500 people at Burke High School, Obama held a fundraising event at 21 King St., where more than 150 people paid $1,000 each to mingle with Obama, then a young senator from Illinois.
On a later visit, Obama told Franklin Ashley, another early Obama supporter here, that the King Street fundraiser raised his hopes. Franklin recalled Obama saying, “It was then that I thought if that many people from a place like Charleston would pay $1,000 to come have lunch with me, that I just might have a real chance to win.”
Riley’s former executive assistant, David Agnew, later worked at the White House as the presidents’ liaison to the nation’s mayors.
There will be three viewings this week for Pinckney:
Wednesday from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Rotunda of the Statehouse in Columbia.
Thursday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at St. John AME Church of Ridgeland.
Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Emanuel AME Church, 110 Calhoun St., Charleston.
Arrangements are being handled by Leevy’s Taylor Street Chapel of Columbia.
Further details about the president’s travel to South Carolina will be made available in the coming days.
Andrew Knapp contributed to this report. Reach Melissa Boughton at 937-5594 or at Twitter.com/mboughton.