Charleston Tragedy Hits Home

Local Lawmakers Back Flag Relocation

WINNSBORO – The aftershocks of last week’s mass murder at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston continue to ripple across the nation, reaching even into the small-town setting of Winnsboro.

Daniel Simmons Sr., 74, one of nine people gunned down during worship services on June 17, was once pastor of a local church. From 1982 to 1988, Simmons served as pastor of Wayman A.M.E. Church, now known as Wayman Chapel Church, at the corner of Garden and Palmer streets in Winnsboro.

Fairfield County Clerk to Council Shryll Brown and her husband David were members of Wayman Church during Simmons’ tenure, and Brown served as the Rev. Simmons’ personal secretary. Brown said that while Simmons was pastor, the church enjoyed many upgrades – paint job, handicapped ramp, new carpet – and Simmons initiated several new programs, such as Bible study, Laymen’s Organization and Young Adult Gospel Choir.

Also among the dead was 41-year-old Clementa Pinckney, a Lowcountry State Senator and the senior pastor at Emanuel A.M.E. Fairfield County’s State Senator, Creighton Coleman (D-17) reflected Tuesday on the loss of his colleague.

“He was the only one I knew of the nine,” Coleman said, “and he was an A-Number-One guy. He was a wonderful guy. Big in stature and big in heart. He’s going to be sorely missed.”

Coleman said Pinckney was also one of the State Senate’s most gifted public speakers.

“He gave one of the best speeches I ever heard when we were debating the body camera bill,” Coleman said.

The other half of Fairfield County’s Legislative Delegation, MaryGail Douglas (D-41), said she did not know Pinckney as well as she would have liked, but said that during her encounters with him, found him to be “a very gentle, gracious man.”

The Fate of the Flag

A suspect in the killings, 21-year-old Dylan Roof, was arrested in North Carolina during a traffic stop a day after the incident. Since then, investigators have released what they say was Roof’s “manifesto,” an online screed fueled by racist anger. Photos of Roof posing online with the Confederate flag pushed the flag flying on the Statehouse grounds back to front and center, with large rallies on the grounds last Saturday and Wednesday. Monday, Gov. Nikki Haley called on lawmakers to remove the flag, and Tuesday the General Assembly took the first steps toward doing just that.

Tuesday afternoon, Coleman, along with Kershaw County Sen. Vincent Sheheen (D-27), Charleston Sen. Marlon Kimpson (D-42) and Darlington County Sen. Gerald Malloy (D-29). Introduced into the Senate a bill to remove the flag and relocate it to the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum, inside the State Museum at 301 Gervais St.

“It needs to come down,” Coleman told The Voice Tuesday, after the bill had had its first reading. “I hate that it took this to do it.”

While support for the removal of the flag is mounting, it is not yet a done deal. The bill will still go into committee, then back to the floor of both chambers for second and third readings, a process that could take up to three weeks. Second reading, Coleman said, is where the real debate will be.

Douglas, who said she also supports the relocation of the flag, also said that the longer the process takes, the more difficult it will be to get the bill passed.

“If it were voted on today, it would pass,” Douglas said. “But there are some who are protecting their elections and they are going to think hard and long on this – and that’s not a new thing. Some will abandon ship and go back to working to keep it there. But I don’t think they have enough votes to keep it from happening.

“My vote will go to relocating it,” Douglas said. “It has been divisive for quite some time now. I’m all for taking care of it and getting that divisive issue out of the way.”