Rev. Clementa Pinckney was without question a monumental figure in Charleston, S.C., where he was pastor of its most historic black church and an influential state senator. But until he was gunned down in his church last week along with eight other worshipers, he was unknown outside South Carolina. However he was known to President Obama.
And as for the rest of American history, he may be remembered as much for Obama's electrifying eulogy than for his career in public service and ministry.
After sharing the meaningful attributes of Pinckney's life, President Obama broke it down to five simple words: "He was a good man."
But then, in a half-hour eulogy at the "Mother" Emanuel A.M.E. the Church where Pinckney was killed, the President also took that time to focus on broader meditation on the church, race relations, violence and the American character.
"Amazing Grace," he said, reciting the lyrics of that uniquely American spiritual hymn. "How sweet the sound."
He went on to say grace is not earned, It's given by God. And it's given regardless of whether we deserve it.
And that was the rhetorical and emotional turning point of the eulogy.
The killer, he said, "surely sensed the meaning of his violent act ... an act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation's original sin."