In the words of Reverend Dr. Norvel Goff Sr., the College’s TD Arena was transformed into a sanctuary on Friday, June 26, 2015. The arena served as the site for the funeral – the “home-going” celebration – of the late State Senator Clementa Pinckney, the reverend of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church who was killed along with eight of his parishioners in the mass shooting on June 17.
“The College was honored to assist the City of Charleston and Mother Emanuel in commemorating the life of Senator Pinckney – a beloved leader to our entire community and a dear friend to many of us who had the pleasure to serve with him in the legislature,” said College of Charleston President Glenn McConnell. “Today was a day of many emotions, but the most powerful feeling was one of unity.”
Rather than cheers of “CO-UG-ARS,” hymns such as “My Hope Is Built” and “It Is Well” echoed in the rafters of TD Arena to a crowd of 5,960. More than 20 speakers shared messages of faith and love as well as personal memories of Pinckney, including humorous recollections from longtime friend and CofC alum Kylon Middelton (Class of 1995), pastor at Hopewell A.M.E. Church in Hemingway, S.C.
This funeral commanded the attention of the world, with journalists from around the globe, including the White House press pool and every major media outlet. Dignitaries in attendance included First Lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, House Speaker John Boehner, U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn and Gov. Nikki Haley as well as South Carolina U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott.
The funeral’s eulogy was delivered by President Barack Obama, who brought the crowd to their feet several times with his impassioned remarks about the power of grace and how Charleston’s response to the tragedy has set an example for the nation. The President ended his remarks by leading the arena in his favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.” (See video below)