Hundreds stood in line Sunday in the sweltering Charleston summer heat to pay their last respects to the Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor.
And hundreds were turned away, unable to fit inside Emanuel AME Church for her funeral — one of nine for parishioners fatally shot June 17 during a Bible study there. Despite more than two hours standing in the sun, which felled several in exhaustion, the mourners expressed little disappointment, just love for Middleton Doctor and her fellow fallen worshipers.
Among them were her longtime Hollywood neighbors, Blondell and Realous Jamison, who recalled Middleton Doctor as a loving person who had her hand in everything from church to shepherding through school her four daughters, Gracyn, Kaylin, Hali and Czana.
“She’s going to be missed in church, in school, everywhere,” Blondell Jamison said.
Then she hesitated, looked up to the sky and said, “Lord, I’m glad she didn’t have her kids with her that night.”
Middleton Doctor almost wasn’t there either.
The Rev. Calvin Malone co-ministered with her at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston. He said friends have told him that on the night of the shooting Middleton Doctor had planned instead to take a daughter to her basketball practice.
But at the last minute a friend volunteered to take her instead, so Middleton Doctor went to the Emanuel Bible study.
Malone, who just missed getting in the church for the funeral service, recalled his friend and fellow minister as a gracious person who always had time for people, despite her busy life.
“When people say ‘pray for me,’ she would stop and pray right there instead,” he said.
As it became clear that those left outside the church would not get in, some broke out in impromptu song, singing “Amazing Grace,” the same hymn President Barack Obama sang to end his powerful eulogy Friday for the church’s minister, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, who was among those killed.
About 150 mourners managed to make it into an overflow first-floor room where two televisions broadcast what was happening in the sanctuary above.
The wood-paneled room, with “The Lord’s Prayer” posted on one wall, is the same one where Middleton Doctor and the eight others showed such kindness and love during Bible study that the alleged killer reportedly told authorities he almost didn’t kill them.
It was that powerful, unending love that most of the mourners remember her for.
Even as the bullets felled her fellow worshipers that night at the Bible study, Malone said, “I know she prayed for that young man. ... Faced with that danger, she gave praise. We know she did. We know where she is.”
Malone said Middleton Doctor, 49, had decided to take up membership at Emanuel AME Church earlier this year and study for the AME ministry, just like her father, the Rev. Leroy Middleton.
Inside the church’s historic sanctuary several dignitaries voiced praise for Middleton Doctor.
Gov. Nikki Haley told mourners, “I did not know her... but she loves you and left you with everything you need — to love.”
She also praised Emanuel AME. “You have taught our state and country how to forgive,” she said.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson prayed for Middleton Doctor and reflected on the killing and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.
Mayor Joe Riley said he is working to build nearby the International African American Museum to do something concrete to extend the healing.
It will help people understand a part of history they don’t know, Riley said. And the museum would help people “shut out this kind of hatred in our country.”
As the service wound down with singing, clapping and praise, Presiding Elder Norvel Goff told the mourners, “this is not the end” for Middleton Doctor.
“Amen! Amen!” mourners called out.
The funeral concluded with the hymn “When We All Get to Heaven.”
Middleton Doctor retired in 2005 as Charleston County director of the Community Development Block Grant Program.
Last year, she began working for Southern Wesleyan University as admissions coordinator for the school’s Charleston learning center.
Middleton Doctor was buried in Live Oak Memorial Gardens on Ashley River Road.