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Former Colleague Remembers Charleston Shooting Victim Clementa Pinckney

06/19/2015 08:51 am ET | Updated Jun 19, 2015

After a heinous display of violence claimed the lives of nine churchgoers at Charleston's historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal on Wednesday, those close to the victims are speaking out and shedding light on the impact that they've had on their communities.

Rev. Clementa Pinckney was one of the many who lost their lives. Jason Johnson, a political analyst who knew Pinckney personally, joined HuffPost Live on Thursday and looked back on the reverend's legacy. Pinckney, who was also a state senator, had a long history of fighting against racial discrimination, Johnson told host Alyona Minkovski:

[Pinckney's] was the first campaign that I ever ran right after college. The Supreme Court had redrawn districts in the Lowcountry of South Carolina and turned a bunch of black majority districts into white majority districts, and here's this young guy who's a couple years older than me, he just wanted to represent his community. He was already a pastor. He had graduated from college and I spent three months traveling this part of the country with him, talking about faith and race and God and everything he wanted to do in all of his dreams.

Johnson said he's having a tough time grappling with Pinckney's death.

"To see him get taken down like this at such a young age, by a criminal and a coward and a racist, is one of the most tragic things i've ever experienced in my life," Johnson said.

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  • Wade Spees / The Post And Courier / AP
    A man kneels across the street from where police gather outside the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church following the shooting Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers embrace following a group prayer across the street from the scene of the shooting. A white man opened fire during a prayer meeting inside the historic black church, killing multiple people, including the pastor, in an assault that authorities described as a hate crime.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A distraught man is comforted as a group of concerned people arrive inquiring about the shooting.
  • Matthew Fortner / The Post And Courier / AP
    Charleston police officers search for a shooting suspect outside the Emanuel AME Church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Lisa Doctor joins a prayer circle early Thursday, June 18, 2015, down the street from Emanuel following the shooting.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers gather to pray in a hotel parking lot across the street from the scene of the attack.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers gather to pray down the street from the Emanuel church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Police close off a section of Calhoun Street near the church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston Emergency Management Director Mark Wilbert on Thursday holds a flier that was distributed to media with surveillance footage of a suspect wanted in connection with the shooting. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Surreace Cox, of North Charleston, South Carolina, holds a sign during a prayer vigil down the street from the Emanuel AME Church early Thursday. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Worshippers gather to pray in a hotel parking lot across the street from the church. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A police officer uses a flashlight while searching the area. (Photo: David Goldman)
  • Grace Beahm / The Post and Courier / AP
    Rev. Sandy Drayton sheds a tear during a prayer vigil held at Morris Brown AME Church for the victims of Wednesday's shooting at Emanuel AME Church on Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Charleston, S.C.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Parishioners listen during a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the nine people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A parishioner prays during a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside a historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. Police arrested 21-year-old suspect Dylann Storm Roof Thursday in Shelby, N.C. without resistance. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Natasha Wright speaks to her two daughters, Thursday, June 18, 2015 at a make-shift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in the slayings of several people, including the pastor, at a prayer meeting inside the historic black church in downtown Charleston. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, center right, joins hands with Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley, left, and Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., right, at a memorial service at Morris Brown AME Church for the people killed Wednesday during a prayer meeting inside the historic black church in Charleston, S.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    People sit on the steps of Morris Brown AME Church while services are held June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina. Police on Thursday arrested a 21-year-old white gunman suspected of killing nine people at a prayer meeting in one of the nation's oldest black churches in Charleston, an attack being probed as a hate crime. The shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in the southeastern US city was one of the worst attacks on a place of worship in the country in recent years, and comes at a time of lingering racial tensions.
  • BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI via Getty Images
    A South Carolina State Trooper walks past as people gather for a vigil while services are held at Morris Brown AME Church June 18, 2015 in Charleston, South Carolina.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston police Lt. S. Siprko removes flowers from the backseat of a patrol car, Thursday, June 18, 2015 to a makeshift memorial in front of the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. T
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    State Senator Vincent Sheheen (D-Kershaw) gets emtional as he sits next to the draped desk of state Sen. Clementa Pinckney, Thursday, June 18, 2015, at the Statehouse in Columbia, S.C. Pinckney was one of those killed, Wednesday night in a shooting at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    A group of women pray together at a make-shift memorial on the sidewalk in front of the Emanuel AME Church, Thursday, June 18, 2015 in Charleston, S.C. Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was arrested Thursday in the slayings of several people, including the pastor at a prayer meeting inside the historic black church.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Tyler Francis, right, hugs Shondrey Dear after praying together, Thursday, June 18, 2015 at a make-shift memorial near the Emanuel AME Church following a shooting Wednesday night in Charleston, S.C. Shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof, 21, was captured without resistance in North Carolina Thursday after an all-night manhunt, Charleston's police chief Greg Mullen said.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Sheby Police Department in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015.
  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
    Charleston, S.C., shooting suspect Dylann Storm Roof is escorted from the Sheby Police Department in Shelby, N.C., Thursday, June 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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