In this June 3, 2014 photo, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney...

In this June 3, 2014 photo, state Sen. Clementa Pinckney speaks at the South Carolina Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney was killed Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in a shooting at an historic black church in Charleston, S.C. Credit: AP / The Post and Courier / Grace Beahm

The Rev. Clementa Pinckney was busy Wednesday, not unusual for a man who was both a respected pastor and state senator in his native South Carolina.

He began the day at home in Ridgeland with his wife, Jennifer, and two daughters before driving to the statehouse in Columbia two hours away for a 9:30 a.m. committee meeting.

He left early to make it to neighboring North Charleston for a speech by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton. Then it was off to his congregation in downtown, the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, for the regular Wednesday night Bible study.

Pinckney, 41, was leading the Bible group when a gunman opened fire inside the church. Pinckney and eight other people were killed, police said.

"This is just devastating, to lose such a respected man." said state Sen. Larry Grooms of Charleston, who served with Pinckney for 15 years.

Pinckney had taken to preaching at age 13, following deeply rooted family tradition. His great-grandfather and uncle had been well-known AME pastors who fought to end whites-only political primaries and desegregate school busing. Pinckney soon discovered that the familial gift had not passed him by.

"If you put him in a room of 20 people, he'd be leading it by the time you came out the door," said Albert Kleckley, a county probate judge who had known Pinckney for years.

Pinckney was first elected to the state House of Representatives in 1996, at age 23. In 2000, at age 27, he made it to the State Senate, becoming the youngest African-American in South Carolina to do so.

Recently, those who knew him said, Pinckney appeared to have found a cause, the kind of galvanizing injustice that the pastors in his family had seized upon in the past. That came in April, when Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, was fatally shot by a white police officer in North Charleston, which increased racial tensions. Pinckney co-sponsored a bill to equip police statewide with body cameras.

In May, Pinckney gave a speech on the State Senate floor about the Scott shooting. Grooms recalled it as his friend's finest moment in the statehouse.

"Today, the nation looks at South Carolina and is looking at us to see if we will rise to be the body and to be the state that we really say that we are," Pinckney said then.

The body camera bill passed.

Other lives cut short

The Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45, a mother of three, was a part-time minister at Emanuel AME Church and worked as a speech pathologist at Goose Creek High School, where she also was the girls track coach. Principal Jimmy Huskey said: "Her No. 1 concern was always the students. She made a difference in the lives of children. She cannot be replaced here at this school."

Susie Jackson, 87, was a longtime church member and sang in the choir. She and another victim, Ethel Lee Lance, were cousins. Jackson's grandson Tim Jackson told the Cleveland station WEWS-TV she was a loving, giving woman with a great smile. "It's just hard to process that my grandmother had to leave Earth this way," he said.

The Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, the mother of two daughters, was a minister at the church and worked as an enrollment counselor at Southern Wesleyan University's campus in Charleston. "She was a woman of God," said Joel Crawford, a colleague at the campus.

Cynthia Hurd, 54, was the manager of one of the busiest branches of the Charleston County library system and was planning to retire soon. She grew up in Charleston, and her mother made sure they went to Emanuel AME Church on Sundays, Wednesdays and any other time it was open, her brother Malcom Graham said. "I wasn't surprised . . . she was there," he said. Graham was trying to help her husband, a merchant sailor currently at sea near Saudi Arabia, get home.

Tywanza Sanders, 26, graduated last year from Allen University, where he studied business. In a news release, the school described Sanders as "a quiet, well-known student" with "a warm and helpful spirit." On Instagram, he called himself a poet, artist and businessman. His photos were filled with friends, smiles, family and motivational quotes. Hours before he died, he had put up a post -- a meme with a Jackie Robinson quote: "A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives."

Ethel Lance, 70, was a member of the church for most of her life and a sexton there for the past five years. She retired from the housekeeping staff at the city's Gaillard Auditorium. Lance had five children, seven grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. "She was a God-fearing woman," said granddaughter Najee Washington, 23. "She was the heart of the family, and she still is."

The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, was a minister at Emanuel AME Church.

Myra Thompson, 59, also was one of the nine slain victims.

With The Associated Press

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