Cynthia Hurd’s love of books couldn’t be limited to a single library, and her “homegoing service” couldn’t be contained in a single church.
Hundreds of mourners showed up Saturday morning for the funeral of the Charleston County librarian, as the city, state and nation continue to grieve for her and the eight other lives lost in the June 17 shooting inside Emanuel AME Church.
Mother Emanuel filled quickly with mourners, and about 200 people unable to get in watched via a video feed from inside the nearby Second Presbyterian Church.
Assistant Democratic Leader U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, said he is a longtime friend of Hurd’s brother, former North Carolina Sen. Michael Graham, and one of his daughters considered Hurd her best friend, “This is a family that makes us all proud,” Clyburn said.
Charleston Mayor Joe Riley said there will be a monument placed at Emanuel AME Church just as there was on the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, where four black girls were killed in a 1963 bombing.
“What happened on the first floor of this church a little more than a week ago is now part of our history books, just as the Birmingham bombing,” he said, “but the consciousness of our country has changed so much in 50 years. ... The hateful act in this church shook America that didn’t want to believe or couldn’t believe that this kind of hate could still exist in our country.”
Riley, who first met Hurd when she worked serving ice cream at Swenson’s in Charleston, said Hurd’s public service, which also included service on the Charleston Housing Authority board, enhanced the lives of tens of thousands of people.
“And in the manner of her tragic death, leading to our country’s revulsion, her death will lead to change — and Cynthia Hurd will be helping millions,” he said.
Other speakers struck a lighter note.
Charleston County Library Director Douglas Henderson said Hurd was so powerful, “she could lift you with her smile,” and Housing Authority CEO Don Cameron told jokes about his visit to London with Hurd a few years ago for a tenant’s conference. He said they worshipped together inside Westminster Abbey, and Hurd found the service “a bit staid.”
Hurd, 54, worked with the county’s libraries for 31 years, managing the John L. Dart Branch, then the St. Andrews Regional branch, which is being renamed in her honor. She also worked at the College of Charleston’s libraries, and the college is naming a scholarship to honor her.
Gov. Nikki Haley said she didn’t know Hurd but has come to admire her for her love of books and outspoken nature — and for part of her email signature that said, “Be kinder than necessary.”
“That’s what I will take with me,” Haley said. “That’s an amazingly powerful phrase.”
Haley also said she was sorry this happened on her watch, “but we will make this right. We will make this right.”
Graham, Hurd’s brother, highlighted several lessons from a book his sister Cynthia gave him when he became a parent.
“She was my friend and confidant, my advisor, my conscience,” he said. “She didn’t have any kids, but she adopted everybody’s kids.”
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.