A caisson drawn by a pair of white horses carried the body of slain pastor and state Sen. Clementa Pinckney to the South Carolina Statehouse where hundreds of mourners lined up to pay their final respects to the esteemed lawmaker.
Among them was his six-year-old daughter Malana and her mother Jennifer, who were in the church in Charleston when Sen. Pinckney was gunned down with eight other people a week ago.
His coffin passed directly by the Confederate flag on a pole on the Statehouse grounds as debate over the fate of the divisive Civil War-era symbol raged on in South Carolina and across the country.
Pinckney, 41, was also a pastor at the African Methodist Episcopal Church, where nine people at a bible study class were shot dead allegedly by Dylann Roof. Mrs Pinckney and her youngest daughter managed to hide under a desk in an office during the massacre and call 911.
The couple were also parents to an older daughter, Eliana, who is 11.
The caisson transporting her father’s body was flanked by two police cars with their lights on.
Around 100 members of the public stood in line along the side of the Statehouse near the Confederate flag.
Gloria Wingard, 66, of Columbia, had been there since 9.30am. ‘I’m here to honor him and the things that he’d done,’ she said.
The solemn procession left a funeral home on Taylor Street at around noon local time and pulled up in front of the Statehouse 20 minutes later.
Nine members of the honor guard carried Pinckney’s open casket into the rotunda as mourners sang We Shall Overcome.
Some wept as they slowly walked past the deceased senator, who had been dressed in a dark suit and red tie. He appeared remarkably peaceful, with a slight smile on his lips.
Visitor Cornelia Bell, who was a member of a church in Irmo where Pinckney was a minister, told the station WTOC: ‘I just had to be here. He was the pastor that brought me back to the Lord.’
Governor Nikki Haley was among a group of dignitaries standing on the steps of the Statehouse waiting for the casket to arrive.
The governor, who earlier this week called for the Confederate flag to be removed from the Capitol – or at least temporarily taken down for the funerals – broke down in tears at the sight of the caisson.
A large black drape had been placed over the rotunda window with a view of the Confederate flag outside.
President Barack Obama will deliver the eulogy at Senator Pinckney’s funeral, which will be held on Friday.
Vice President Joe Biden will also attend the service, along with First Lady Michelle Obama.
Barack Obama and Biden both acknowledged in statements last Thursday that they were friends of the reverend, who was the youngest African American to be elected to his state legislature at age 23. He had only graduated from Allen University a year earlier – in 1995.
The president said the morning after the tragedy: ‘Michelle and I know several members of Emanuel AME Church. We knew their pastor, Reverend Clementa Pinckney, who, along with eight others, gathered in prayer and fellowship and was murdered last night.
‘And to say our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and their community doesn’t say enough to convey the heartache and the sadness and the anger that we feel.’
The Vice President recalled that he saw Pinckney less than a year ago during a visit to Charleston.
‘He was a good man, a man of faith, a man of service who carried forward Mother Emanuel’s legacy as a sacred place promoting freedom, equality, and justice for all,’ he said in a statement.
He earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of South Carolina in 1999 and studied at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary.
A native of Beaufort, Pinckney began preaching at age 13 and was first appointed pastor at 18. He was elected to the state Senate in 2000.
A decade later he was named pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church, according to the state Democratic Party.
‘He had a core not many of us have,’ said Sen. Vincent Sheheen, who sat beside him in Senate chambers. ‘I think of the irony that the most gentle of the 46 of us – the best of the 46 of us in this chamber – is the one who lost his life.’
Funerals for the other eight victims have been announced, starting with one Thursday and at least one each day through Monday.