Scholarship Fund Created for Charleston Shooting Victims' Families

The office of Charleston mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. has announced that a group of anonymous donors has raised more than $3 million to create a scholarship fund in the name of Clementa Pinckney, the South Carolina state senator and pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church who was murdered along with eight other parishioners in a June 17 shooting at the church.

The Reverend Pinckney Scholarship Fund will provide college and advanced degree scholarships for families of the victims and members of the extended Mother Emanuel AME Church community. Harvard University professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., who contacted Riley on behalf of the donors, businessman William M. Lewis, Jr., and the mayor have agreed to serve as the fund's initial board members and will work with church leadership to establish grant criteria and administer the fund. The fund is accepting additional donations.

"We do not pretend to understand the pain caused by this unimaginable tragedy," the donors said in a statement. "We simply want members of the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church community to know that the burdens of perseverance and empathy, which they have demonstrated with such dignity, do not fall exclusively on their shoulders. We want them to know that others, most of whom do not share their race or religion, who do not come from South Carolina, abhor the injustices from which they have suffered and admire the ways the African-American community has enriched our nation. We honor Reverend Pinckney, who so profoundly embodied the values that bind us together as Americans."

In the wake of the shooting, two other funds have been established — the Mother Emanuel Hope Fund, which has raised more than $1.2 million, and the Lowcountry Ministries – Reverend Pinckney Fund, which has raised $600,000, Riley told the Washington Post.

"The loss of Reverand Pinckney and the death of the faithful eight who perished with him cuts deep," said Gates, "but through this educational fund, Reverand Pinckney's already rich legacy will ripple across time, promoting the values of learning and public service he so nobly embodied in word and in sterling deed."