The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever. (Psalm 23).
Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, an assistant pastor at Mother Emanuel AME Church, spent her life making lasting difference in the lives of your people.
A native of Newark, NJ, where she graduated from Vailsburg High School in 1987, Coleman-Singleton enrolled at S.C. State University to pursue a bachelor’s degree in speech pathology and audiology. Outside the classroom, she was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority and an award-winning hurdler. She helped propel the SCSU track-and-field team to a conference championship. After completing her undergraduate studies, she went on to attend Montclair State University and obtained a master’s degree in speech language and pathology.
Coleman-Singleton began her professional career as a speech and language pathologist in schools in Georgia, before moving to Goose Creek High School in 2008. Her sports background and love of young people quickly led her to also become the head coach of the girls’ track-and-field team. Over the next seven years she gained a school-wide reputation for encouraging, mentoring and determinedly advocating for the young women she coached.
A faithful Christian, Coleman-Singleton was a lay minister at Mother Emanuel, working with the youth and young adult ministries.
But Coleman-Singleton’s greatest pride was her family, especially her sons and daughter: Christopher, Caleb and Camryn Singleton. A doting mother, she was involved in their education and enjoyed cheering on the Gators at Goose Creek events, as well as for the Buccaneers of Charleston Southern University, where Christopher went on to play baseball.
Among the more that 2,000 mourners at her funeral were South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and Civivl Rights leaders Jessie Jackson and Al Sharpton.
For over three decades, Cynthia Graham Hurd helped her community and neighbors connect with the resources and opportunity found at the public library. Children, especially, knew she was always ready to help them — whether they needed homework assistance or a new book “just right” for a beginning reader.
A Charleston native, Hurd attended James Simmons Elementary School and the High School of Charleston. Graduating from Clark Atlanta University in 1984, she returned home and launched a 3 – year career with the Charleston County Public Library. After earning a master’s degree in library information sciences at the University of South Carolina, she became manager of the John L. Dart Library in 1990 in the Charleston neighborhood where she grew up. In 2011, Hurd was promoted to lead the St. Andrews Regional Library, one of the busiest branches in the county’s system.
Outside her professional work Hurd was active in her community, serving as a board member of the Charleston County Housing Authority for more than 20 years. She was also a board member of Septima P. Clark Corp., a nonprofit that gives small grants to resident programs for those in public housing. Hurd was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and spent time working part-time at the College of Charleston’s Addlestone Library. Additional, she was a life-long member of Mother Emanuel AME Church, joining many members of her family in the congregation.
Susie J. Jackson, 87, lived a long life full of energy and love for her family and fellow church members.
A member of Emanuel AME Church for many years, Jackson was a fixture at Sunday service and Wednesday night Bible studies. She served as a trustee and was an usher. She sang in the adult choir for many years and later enjoyed being a member of the church’s senior citizens group.
Jackson attended Buist Elementary School and Burke Hight School in Charleston. She was one of six sisters and four brothers and married to the late Walter Jackson. She and her husband raised their son, Walter, Jr., on Charleston’s East Side, and she later raised a daughter Annette Jackson. When Walter, Jr. moved out of the house, Jackson displayed her “good Samaritan” spirit and offered his room to two young people in her neighborhood who needed shelter.
Close friends and family recall that as an octogenarian Jackson was healthy, active and showed no signs of slowing down, She adored her three grandchildren and eight great grandchildren. She never missed a graduation because she was very passionate about education.
Jackson was very kid-hearted, often giving of her time and resources. Her home was warm, inviting and always a popular place to have good food, fellowship, and fun.
Two weeks before her death, Jackson took a trip to see a cousin’s graduation and visit her son and grandchildren in Cleveland, Ohio. This trip was a little different because she decided to leave cards with her great grandchildren for their upcoming birthdays. She would normally have mailed hte from her home in Charleston. It was as if she knew she would not see them again.
Jackson’s legacy of love and service to others has touched many people who have comet appreciate her as a dedicated servant of God.
The life of Ethel Lee Lance, 70 epitomized loyalty, consistency and dedication to serving others. Born in Charleston where she and her husband Nathaniel Lance raised their family, Lance was a lifelong member of Emanuel AME Church. She took great pride in her beloved church, working as a custodian and helping keep its facilities clean for fie years Whether she was working, attending church services or studying her Bible, Lance was at Emanuel AME nearly seven days a week.
Lance was a hard worker, and in 1968 when Charleston’s Gilliard Municipal Auditorium opened, she began working there as a custodian and worked there until she retired in 2002. She loved to take her family to see gospel performances at the auditorium when she had a night off. Two of Lance’s daughters even had their wedding receptions at the Gilliard.
A matriarch by all accounts, she was devoted to her family’s well-being. She led her family through despair when her husband died in 1988 and when her daughter, Terrie Washington, died in 2013. Brandon Risher, the older of Lance’s grandchildren, remembers her as a symbol of love. Other grandchildren recall that she firmly encouraged them to succeed, and always served grits and bacon for breakfast. Lance’s loving family includes five children, six grandchildren and four great grandchildren. She never had the opportunity too see her youngest great grandchild, Jonquil, Lance, Jr., who was born just before the tragedy.
Her funeral at Royal Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston was attended by civil rights leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton, and by political leaders such as Gov. Nikki Haley, U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford and Charleston Mayor Joe Riley. The choir sang “One Day at a Time,” Lance’s favorite gospel song. Her daughter said the song gave her strength in difficult times.
Rev. DePayne Vontrese Middleton, 49, of Hollywood, South Carolina, was born into a family of faith and ministers. In addition to powerful oratory skills, skill also had a talent for singing and shared this gift with many congregations and choirs in the Charleston area. When she decided to become a minister, she served at Mt. Mariah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston before she ministered at Emanuel AME, which she joined in March of 2015.
The queen of her high school, Middleton earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Columbia College in 1989, and a master’s degree on organizational management from Southern Wesleyan University in 1994.
In 2005, she retired as the Charleston County director of the Community Development Block Grant program, In 2015, she began working for Southern Wesleyan University, her alma mater, as admissions coordinator for the school’s Charleston learning center, An experienced grant writer, she also worked for local and state agencies in various roles and as data manager/analyst for the Medical University of South Carolina. She twice managed the Charleston Census Bureau office.
She was the mother of four daughters: Gracyn, Kaylin, Hali and Czana. They were her life’s priority, and she instilled in them a passion for education, adventure and individuality.
Middleton lived a life dedicated to her Christina faith and to helping others. A co-minister recalled that any time Middleton encountered someone asking for prayers, she would promptly stop and pray with them on the spot.
Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley and Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson attended Middleton’s funeral. The service concluded with clapping, praise and singing, the release of a flock of doves and the hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven.”
The Reverend Clenenta C. Pinckney, 41, lived much of his life in Ridgeland, South Carolina, but he left a positive impact as a Pastor and Stateman far beyond rural Jasper County. As Pastor, he served thousands of parishioners in many South Carolina churches, and he was a leading member fit eSouth Carolina Senate.
Born into a family with a legacy of church leadership and civil rights activism, Pinckney graduated magna cum laude from Allen University, where he was elected president of the freshman class, senior class, and student body. He was named one of America’s to college students by Ebony Magazine and received a Princeton University Woodrow Wilson Summer Research Fellowship in the fields of public policy and international affairs He received a graduate fellowship to the University of South Carolina, where he earned a master’s i public administration.
At age 13, Pinckney felt called to become a pastor and was ordained at age 18. After completing his studies at Allen and USC, he earned a Master of Divinity from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary. He led churches across the state before becoming the senior pastor at Emanuel AME Church in 2010. At the time of his death, he was pursuing a doctorate at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C., which was awarded posthumously.
Pinckney was the youngest African American ever elected to the South Carolina General Assembly, becoming a State Representative at 23 and a Senator at 27. He became know for quietly leading by example, advocating for healthcare and education issues and passionately opposing gun violence.
A gifted orator, Pinckney was a humble public servant with a calm demeanor, a devoted husband to his wife, Jennifer, and loving father to his daughters, Eliana and Malana. President Obama eulogized Pinckney at his funeral, attended by Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Nikki Haley and numerous dignitaries and church leaders.
Tywanza Sanders, 26, was a young, vibrant man with many talents and interest who was wiling to give his life for another.
Born in Charleston, “Wanza” was known forces broad, ready smile and positive outlook on life.
Sanders graduated from James Island Charter School in 2006, where he was a member of the Trojan football team,. Future Business Leaders of America and other student organizations. Sanders also o filmed home basketball games for the school’s broadcast journalism news team. After high school, he earned a degree in business administration from Allen University, where he was known as serious student committed to his education. While at Allen, he balanced coursework, part-time jobs and membership in student organizations like the National Association of Black Accountants and the National Black MBA Association.
Upon graduation, Sanders returned to Charleston and, while holding two jobs, began making plans to attend graduate school. In his spare time, he enjoyed writing rap lyrics and poetry and participated in poetry slams. At the time of his death, he was in the process of publishing his own book of poetry titled “Tragedy,” addressing themes of violence, poverty and inequality. Sanders played the keyboard and other instruments and enjoyed skateboarding and acting.
When Sanders wasn’t studying or working, he could often be found at Emanuel AME Church studying the Bible with his tight-knit community of family and friends.
Sanders’ final act was one of selfless heroism. as gunshots rand out at Emanuel Church, he stepped in front of his great aunt, Susie Jackson, giving his life in an attempt to save hers. Fittingly, Sanders’ and Jackson’s lives were celebrated in a joint funeral, which was attended by hundreds of mourners including Gov. Nikki Haley.
The Reverend Daniel Simmons, Sr., was a gentleman, a leader, an avid proponent of education and a grant of Christ. A fourth generation preacher who worked diligently to expand the AME Church, he was affectionately recognized was the spiritual heart of the Seventh Episcopal District, earning him the name “Super Simmons from the Super Seventh.”
Simmons and his wife Annie Graham Simmons had two children, Daniel L. Simmons, Jr. and Rose Ann Simmons. He earned a B.A. in Education Administration from Allen University in Columbia, SC, a Master’s degree in Social Work from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Leadership and Theology from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia.
Simmons was Senor Pastor at eight different AME Churches over thirty years and dedicated his life to teaching the truth of God’s Word. He wanted everyone to experience a vibrant relationship who Christ and walk in God’s will. Simmons initiated new programs and outreach ministries, enhancing the communities he served as pastor. At Greater Zion AME Church in Awendaw, SC, he launched the first Hot Meal Program, open to all citizens. After serving his country honorable in the United States Army during the Vietnam War, Simmons was dually employed by the South Carolina Department of Corrections as a teacher and a counselor. Simmons also worked with Greyhound Bus Company as one of the first black drivers hired during the early 1970’s, Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, Department of Veterans Affairs and the Vocational Rehabilitation Center.
After retiring in 2013, he was asked by Rev. Clementa Pinckney to join the ministerial staff of Mother Emanuel Church, where he continued to teach and help develop the church’s leadership team. Simmons was a member of several organizations, including Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity and Capital City Lodge No. 47.
Simmons stressed the importance of education to his children, grandchildren and other young people. Simmons loved jazz music and the visual arts. He was a man of great intelligence, determination and responsibility, qualities that enabled I’m to leave a legacy of faith and compassion.
Charleston native Myra Singleton Quarles Thompson joined Mother Emanuel AME Church as a young child, beginning a lifetime of devotion to the church and its members. Her deep faith and love for the church’s members led her to study to become a minister, and hist before her death her preaching certificate was renewed.
One of 16 children, Thompson attended Livingstone College where she was a member of the marching band. She later transferred to Benedict College where she earned a BA degree in English Education and became a proud member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. She furthered her education at the Citadel Military College od Charleston where she earned the degree of Mastery Education in Reading and a second degree of Master of Education in School Counseling. Thompson was a retired Charleston Court school counselor and teacher where she taught at Brentwood Middle School in North Charleston for many years.
She was married to the Reverend Anthony B. Thompson, Vicar of Holy Trinity Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston. Her two children Kevin Singleton and Denise Quarles, and two grandchildren were her pride and joy.
Thompson was widely known among her fellow church members for her passionate devotion to the maintenance of the church in which she grew up. As a long-standing member of Mother Emanuel’s property committee, Thompson took a personal interest in caring for the church facilities. From replacing light bulbs in sanctuary chandeliers, to helping with the renovation of Mother Emanuel’s parsonage, Thompson was involved in helping ensure that Mother Emanuel’s physical condition reflected the spiritual condition of members.
Thompson’s funeral service was held at Mother Emanuel Church, Hundreds of people wrapped around the Calhoun Street block and crowded the sanctuary to pay their respects to the family. Among those in attendance were U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joe Riley, and Dr. David A. Swinton, President of Benedict College.