Remembering church shooting victim, Cynthia Graham Hurd. The ‘Giving Tree.’

Charleston, SC—It has been 2 years since 9 people were murdered inside Emanuel AME Church during Bible study. For this 2 year anniversary, we talked to many of the victim’s family members to continue the legacy of the 9 lives taken during worship.

News 2’s Ashley Osborne sat down with Melvin Graham. He is the brother of Cynthia Graham Hurd. Hurd was a Charleston County Librarian for 31 years. She was also one of the 9 people murdered inside the Fellowship Hall at Emanuel AME Church on June 17, 2015.

Melvin Graham and the rest of their family call Cynthia “the giving tree.” They say she kept giving until she could not give anymore. However, Graham told News 2 about the ways his sister continues to give even though she is gone.

Graham says it still happens regularly, someone who he has never met will tell him—“your sister inspired me” or “your sister helped me.” He says their stories keep Cynthia alive. Graham even gets letters from all over the county from people who never met Cynthia Graham Hurd, but her story moved them intensely.

“Dear Mr. Graham.” Sitting at the big oak table inside the News 2 building, Melvin Graham reads a letter sent to him from a Utah teacher, “donating materials in your sisters honor.”

The woman is retiring and was so inspired by Cynthia, she decided to donate boxes full of supplies to the Cynthia Graham Hurd Foundation that gives books to under-resourced areas.

“I have finished 4 boxes for Cynthia,” Graham reads the retiring teachers beautiful cursive script handwriting.

She never met Cynthia, but talks about her like she had.

“I intended 2 boxes,” she writes, “but Cynthia tweaked me on to four. I talked to her during packing and she said, quit preaching and pack this next box. Pass the tape. So I did.”

This story is an example of her influence. There are physical representations of her legacy as well. First, a scholarship fund at the College of Charleston made in Cynthia’s honor.

Next, a mural painted on the wall of the John L. Dart Library in downtown Charleston on King Street. Graham says he wants the painting to symbolize Cynthia’s message—education is the key.

‘She chased away some of the bad elements and turned Dart into a good learning environment for the children,” says Graham. “Then reached out to the children and said ‘hey, if you need something. I’m here for you!’”

Then, Charleston County named a library after the woman who served inside the library walls for more than 3 decades. Now the county library in West Ashley is called the Cynthia Graham Hurd St. Andrews Regional Library.

“We lost her, in body, but that building immortalizes her in spirit,” Graham says. “I can take my grandchildren to that library and say—that’s your aunt Cynthia. And that’s what gives me a great sense of pride, our family a great sense of pride.”
This admiration extends far outside the bounds of our community to people like the retiring school teacher from Utah. Who grew flowers, pressed them and sent them to Graham with her letter.

Graham continues to read the eloquent letter written in a way only an educator could. “Each one is infused with a prayer and message for her,” Graham chokes back tears as he reads. “Please tuck them in your wallet and the next time you place flowers on her grave, please sprinkle them in front of her headstone. “

Multiple of Cynthia’s 5 siblings have told News 2 that she was not looking for any of this praise. She was just being true to herself.

“And if one person can have this kind of effect, think about a dozen more like Cynthia–just doing the right thing. As long as people say her name. She lives.” Melvin Graham said with a smile beaming across his face.

During the month of June you can go to the Cynthia Graham Hurd Exhibit and see pictures and artifacts that pay tribute to the librarian’s life. This exhibit is at Charleston County’s main library on Calhoun street downtown. Also, Saturday June 17th and Saturday June 24th, the Cynthia Graham Hurd foundation will give free books to children at the John L. Dart Library on King Street. Finally, June 21st, marks the one year anniversary of the naming of the Cynthia Graham Hurd St. Andrews Regional Library.

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