South Carolina State House Holds Viewing For Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Jun 24, 2015
Originally published on June 25, 2015 2:44 pm
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In South Carolina today, a horse-drawn caisson carried the casket of Reverend Clementa Pickney to the Statehouse where he served as a senator. It's been a week since Reverend Pinckney was gunned down, along with eight parishioners at his church in Charleston. NPR's Joel Rose reports that people from across South Carolina and beyond came to pay their respects.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: The casket was carried into the Statehouse by highway patrolmen in full dress, marching in lock step.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Three.

ROSE: In tears, members of Reverend Pinckney's family followed the casket into the building. Pinckney's body lay in state in a storing chamber under the Statehouse rotunda. Visitors of all ages and races, dressed in everything from suits to tank tops, stopped to view the casket and offer their condolences to the family. Hundreds more braved the hot midday sun to stand in a line that wrapped around the Statehouse grounds.

CORNELIA BELL: People want to be here, even though it is a hundred-and-whatever degrees out here.

ROSE: Cornelia Bell (ph) came from nearby Irmo, S.C. She's a member of the church where Reverend Pinckney began his career as a pastor at age 18.

BELL: That's the type of person he was. No matter where he was, you would want to be there and be a part of whatever he was a part of 'cause he just brought good, kind, wonderful atmosphere wherever he was.

STEVE BENJAMIN: A leader in his church, leader in his community, a wonderful father.

ROSE: Steve Benjamin is the mayor of Columbia. He remembers meeting Reverend Pinckney when they were both young men working at the Statehouse.

BENJAMIN: None of us ever go into public service imagining someday they we'd be martyrs, and he indeed is a martyr. He and the other eight victims at Mother Emanuel are, I believe, going to change the arc of history in the State of South Carolina and potentially all across this country.

ROSE: The symbols of the state's history were hard to ignore. Reverend Pinckney's body lay in state just a few feet from a statue of John Calhoun, the South Carolina senator who defended slavery. And Pinckney's casket rolled past the Confederate battle flag, which is displayed on the grounds of the Statehouse, though many who came for today's viewing hope that the flag will soon come down. Jeremy Taylor (ph) of Greenwood, S.C, is one of them.

JEREMY TAYLOR: Hate's not what our state's about. You see the people here today - friends, both black and white. The embraces between black and white people is what our state's truly about. Our state's not about that flag that's flying there.

ROSE: The South Carolina legislature is set to debate the future of the Confederate flag next month. Funeral services for Reverend Pinckney will be held Friday in Charleston. President Barack Obama will offer a eulogy. Joel Rose, NPR News, Columbia, S.C. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.