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Slain Charleston Church Pastor Heard Calling At Early Age

The desk of S.C. Sen. Clementa Pinckney is draped in black cloth with a single rose and vase in an empty chamber prior to a Senate session, Thursday, June 18, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney was killed, Wednesday in a shooting at an historic black church in Charleston.

Among the nine victims of Wednesday's shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. was its pastor, Clementa Pinckney, who was also a was also a Democratic state senator. He was 41.

According to the church's website, Pinckney "answered the call to preach at the age of 13 and received his first appointment to pastor at the age of 18."

He graduated magna cum laude in 1995 from Allen University in Columbia, S.C., with a degree in business administration.

Pinckney was first elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives at age 23, the youngest African-American elected to the Legislature. At 27, he was elected to the state Senate.

In a 2001 profile in the Post and Courier newspaper, Pinckney said of public service:

"I see my public life as a extension of my ministry. I believe in a progressive, holistic ministry where you are mentally, politically and socio-economically involved. Faith is not just getting you to heaven."

Pinckney told the paper he comes from "a long line of preacher-politicians, men who believed in social change." He added:

"I believe in heaven on Earth. Life ought to be prosperous. You aren't just waiting to die. We are charged with making the world a better place than we found it."

The Post and Courier had this description of Pinckney's great-grandfather:

"The Rev. Lorenzo Stevenson of Marion, was a minister who sued the Democratic party to allow minorities to vote in primaries.
His great-uncle on his mother's side, the Rev. Levern Stevenson, led boycotts in Jasper County. He ultimately sued Gov. John West in the West vs. Stevenson case that led to single-member districts and black representation for the first time in South Carolina."

Pinckney told the newspaper that at age 13, "I heard a very soft, whispering voice that said one thing: 'preach.' I knew it was the voice of God because it was so clear."

He said he grew up listening to Bible verses in the African Methodist Episcopal Church:

"Our church was founded on social policy. We have always been vocal about social equality since the 1700s. I come from that tradition. It's part of who I am. I truly want to make a difference."

He was married in 1999 to Jennifer Benjamin. The couple has two children.

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