Charleston victims: A pastor who heard the call at 13; a young man with promise

Posted at 2:26 PM, Jun 18, 2015

(CNN) — Nine people were killed in the shooting rampage Wednesday at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina. Here’s what we know about two of the victims:

Pastor approached life with purpose

Clementa Pinckney died Wednesday doing the work he had always felt was right for him.

He was spreading the Word when he and eight others were gunned down in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.

Pinckney, 41, answered the call to preach nearly 30 years ago, at the age of 13, according to a biography on the church website.

He was a high achiever all his life. He was first appointed a pastor when he was 18. He graduated from Allen University magna cum laude and was president of the student body.

Ebony Magazine included him as one of its “Top College Students in America.”

In 1996, at age 23, he was elected to the state House of Representatives, the youngest black person ever elected to the South Carolina Legislature. Four years later, at age 27, he was elected to the state Senate.

Pinckney pushed for legislation to make police wear body cameras, believing it would protect lives, said his cousin, state Sen. Kent Williams.

When he was in the legislature, national recognition of his achievements continued. Washington Post columnist David Broder called Pinckney a “political spirit lifter for surprisingly not becoming cynical about politics.”

U.S. Rep. Mark Sanford, a former governor of South Carolina, was among those who paid tribute Thursday.

“He was a remarkable human being,” Sanford told CNN’s “New Day.” “He had a gravelly, deep voice — a radio announcer’s voice if you will, and he approached life with that same level of gravitas.”

“He was a man of character,” Williams said. “He was a God-fearing man. He was a family man.”

“He had a passion for helping the poor, for helping to improve the quality of life for all mankind,” Williams added. “But especially those who are the least among us.”

Pinckney left a wife, Jennifer, and two children, Eliana and Malana.

Tywanza Sanders. the ‘youngest victim’

Tywanza Sanders’ profile picture on Facebook is a selfie showing a young man with a winning smile and a sideways cap.

He was a quiet yet well-known student committed to his education, according to a statement from Allen University, from which he graduated in 2014.

The university, in Columbia, South Carolina, is the same one from which Pinckney had graduated years earlier.

The university said Sanders was the youngest victim of the shooting, but it did not give his age.

He graduated last year, the university said, from its Division of Business Administration.

His colleagues were moved by his warm and helpful spirit, the university said.

Sanders’ most recent Facebook post, at around 6 p.m. ET Wednesday, featured a video with comments underneath.

“Ever notice how the mainstream media treats black protesters & white rioters differently?” the text asked.

Sanders seemed a young man intent on going places.

His cover photo on Facebook — the banner photo that spreads behind the profile picture and tops the page — featured only words in light letters set against a dark background.

They said simply: “Your dreams are calling you.”

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