Charleston County approves creation of park in honor of church shooting victim

The proposed site for a park honoring Susie Jackson is a parcel of land belonging to the Charleston County Public Library on Calhoun Street. (Source: Charleston County Council)
The proposed site for a park honoring Susie Jackson is a parcel of land belonging to the Charleston County Public Library on Calhoun Street. (Source: Charleston County Council)
The proposed site plan for the Susie Jackson Freedom Memorial Garden calls for a circular flower bed, memorial plaque and trees at each corner. (Source: Charleston County Council)
The proposed site plan for the Susie Jackson Freedom Memorial Garden calls for a circular flower bed, memorial plaque and trees at each corner. (Source: Charleston County Council)

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston County Council has approved the creation of a park in memory of the oldest victim in the 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church.

The family of Susie Jackson had requested a small parcel of land in downtown Charleston's Mother Emanuel Way Memorial District to be established as the Susie Jackson Freedom Memorial Garden.

On Tuesday night, Council approved the park which would be situated on 75 Calhoun Street, a parcel of what the Jackson family calls an underutilized Charleston County Library property.

It fronts Alexander Street on the east and has access to Mother Emanuel Way on the north side of Calhoun Street, the family says.

In a note to council, Walter Jackson, her son, wrote that she lived on Alexander Street in the Mazyck-Wraggborough neighborhood for 52 years until her death on June 17, 2015.

"Mom was not ready to die," he wrote. "I know she was anticipating family birthdays, holidays, weddings, births and all the other joyous activities of life. However, I know my mother was prepared because as God blessed her, she committed herself to be His channel of blessings to others."

In additional to memorializing Jackson, the park would highlight a site once called Cedar Court, a shortcut Jackson used to get to Buist Elementary School and Mother Emanuel Church. It would also create an additional public green space for neighborhood residents and library customers while honoring Jackson's love for gardening.

It would also connect the spot where the Liberty Tree once stood. The Liberty Tree was where the Declaration of Independence was first read publicly and applauded by South Carolinians, according to a memorial plaque erected on Alexander Street by the Local Society of the Sons of the Revolution in 1905.

Plans for the park include a circular sidewalk that surrounds a bed of perennial flowers with trees at each corner and a memorial plaque that faces Alexander Street.

The Jackson family said the church, the city of Charleston and Charleston Parks Conservancy CEO Harry Lesesne support the proposal. Charleston City council members Robert Mitchell and William Dudley Gregorie and Mazyck-Wraggborough Neighborhood Association President Vangie Rainsford are also listed as supporters in the family's proposal.

The park would be paid for by fundraising efforts led by the Jackson family, the Charleston Parks Conservancy and the Mazyck-Wraggborough Neighborhood and others.

Jackson said his mother was shot 11 times when a gunman opened fire that night in the church's basement after a Bible study.

She was 87 years old and was an active member of the church.

The church's pastor, State Sen. and the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, along with parishioners Cynthia Hurd, the Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Ethel Lance, the Rev. Daniel Simmons and Myra Thompson were also killed in the massacre.

Dylann Roof was sentenced to death in January 2017 for the killings after his conviction on federal charges in December 2016.

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