COLUMBIA — South Carolina’s Senators are still scheduled to return to Columbia without one of their own this morning, despite earlier reports that session was canceled.
As of 7:30 a.m., several Senators said they had still not received any notification that today’s session would not happen, despite some “miscommunication” that indicated otherwise. Senate Clerk Jeffrey Gossett confirmed no decision had been yet.
Sen. Clementa Pinckney, D-Ridgeland was reportedly killed when a gunman opened fire around 9 p.m. inside Emanuel AME Church at 110 Calhoun St.
Pinckney, the church’s pastor, has been a lawmaker for nearly 20 years, having been elected to the House of Representatives in 1996 at the age of 23. He was elected as a senator in 2000 to represent southern Charleston County and parts of Jasper, Beaufort, Colleton, and Hampton counties.
Earlier in this morning while speaking to a local TV Columbia station, House Majority Leader Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Columbia, angrily referred to the shooter as a coward and to Pinckney as a “super nice guy.”
“Sen. Pinckney was just such a great guy,” Rutherford said. “Couldn’t get him to pick a fight with anybody. Not even politically.”
Gov. Nikki Haley issued a written statement just after midnight as well:
“Michael, Rena, Nalin and I are praying for the victims and families touched by tonight’s senseless tragedy at Emanuel AME Church,” Haley said. “While we do not yet know all of the details, we do know that we’ll never understand what motivates anyone to enter one of our places of worship and take the life of another. Please join us in lifting up the victims and their families with our love and prayers.”
Dozens of lawmakers also took to social media to express their sorrows, including Sen. Thomas McElveen, D-Sumter.
“Can’t think of a more powerful voice or a kinder personality than my friend Sen. Clem(enta) Pinckney,” McElveen said. “Our state continues to pray for God’s grace.”
Pinckney had the reputation of being among the most knowledgeable lawmakers in the Senate. His colleagues often jokingly encouraged Pinckney to speak from the floor, so that everyone could enjoy listening to his deep voice.
In a 2 a.m., phone interview with a local TV station, Charleston Democrat Sen. Marlon Kimpson called Pinckney a “giant” and the “conscience” of the Senate. At the time, Kimpson said he had not received confirmation of Pinckney’s death.
“We look to Sen. Pinckney for advice and guidance, particularly when there were some very disheartening and troubling times at the legislature when we were at impasses with legislation,” Kimpson said.
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