Cynthia Hurd was sister of former North Carolina senator

Librarian Cynthia Hurd was among the victims of Wednesday night's shooting at Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston.

Cynthia Hurd worked her way up Charleston County’s library system to become manager of one of its busiest branches, but those who knew her best say she was much more.

One of the nine victims of Wednesday’s church shooting, Hurd spent her life helping people, particularly helping them become educated, said Jamie Thomas, the library system’s spokeswoman and Hurd’s friend.

In a 2003 interview, Hurd said, “I like helping people find answers,” adding that the best thing about being a librarian was service. “Your whole reason for being there is to help people.”

One of those Hurd helped was Kim Odom, who took over as manager of the John Dart branch when Hurd was promoted.

“She really opened up to me what library service meant,” Odom said. “(It’s) not just a building where you come for storytime but a place where you really can get help ... whether it is helping someone with a resume or helping them use a computer a little bit better.”

A Charleston native whose first job was scooping ice cream at Swensen’s shop, Hurd also served on the Charleston Housing Authority’s board since 1995. She was very willing to pose tough questions, but also was someone who loved to laugh, director Douglas Cameron said.

“She also was a person of very strong conviction and strong will,” he said. “You always knew where she stood. She was not the kind of person where you had to figure it out.”

Cameron traveled with Hurd to Washington and London and said she could talk to the most influential, well-respected figures as easily as to someone she just met on the street. “She was a very, very good woman,” he said. “She gave of her time freely.”

Since 2009, she also served as president of Septima P. Clark Corp., a nonprofit that gives small grants to resident programs for those in public housing.

Hurd also was the sister of former North Carolina state Sen. Malcolm Graham, who released a statement calling his sister “a woman of faith. This is a very difficult time for our family, and Cynthia will be sorely missed.”

Hurd worked with the county’s libraries for 31 years, serving as branch manager of the John L. Dart Branch from 1990 to 2011 before becoming manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library, which county officials said Thursday would be named in her honor.

To honor Hurd and the other victims, the library — whose main branch is just down Calhoun Street from the church — closed all 16 locations today. The St. Andrews and John L. Dart branches will remain closed Friday. She is survived by her husband, Arthur.

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.