By Jordyn J. Bennett
No one ever knows if the last time they say goodbye to someone will truly be the last time that they say goodbye. On June 17, 2015 that was the case for many families in Charleston. Nine African-American individuals were murdered during a Wednesday bible study at the Mother Emmanuel A.M.E. Church in an effort to start a race war between blacks and whites.
The assailant, Dylan Roof, a 21-year-old, white male, killed innocent people that day, but did not expect his plan to die too. The tragedy that struck the heart of the nation and the religious spirit of the President, as was shown in his singing of the classic Christian hymn “Amazing Grace” during the “Charleston 9’s” eulogy, united the Charleston community and made the victims’ stories more alive than ever.
One of the lives lost was 59-year-old Myra Singleton-Thompson. That day, her loved ones had no idea Myra would not be walking back through the door she went through before a routine bible study. Like most of the families of the victims, they were distraught by the fact they no longer had Myra, but that day they did not lose; instead, they gave.
Myra was an educator and pastor born on December 5, 1955. She did not have the best childhood. She and her siblings were split up and lived with various neighbors, relatives, and friends once their alcoholic mother became sick. Though her father was not around to take the load, he was making a difference elsewhere.
Her father, James A. Moore Sr., was a civil rights and political leader in South Carolina and the first president of the Hampton County Chapter NAACP before his death. He was also a Montford Point Marine, the first group of black marines, and was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal on June 27, 2012 with his fellow Montford Point Marines.
Though absent of her biological family, Myra found a home in a neighboring family that introduced her to the Emmanuel church, where she found her true home in God. The presence of religion did not stop the essence of hardship in struggle in her life.
Myra pushed herself through college, single parenthood, and a failed marriage before finding her comfortability, purpose, and identity in faith. She would eventually marry Anthony Thompson, who watched and assisted in the development as an advocate of God.
She was a special type of educator. Receiving her M.Ed. in 1994 in Reading Education and another in Secondary Counselor of Education from the Citadel College, Singleton-Thompson was an 8th grade teacher to disadvantaged students in Charleston. Myra was best known for bestowing respect and care to all of her students, but that warm heart of hers struggled to embrace the word she was presented in church. However, the strong love between her and her husband, bonded by Christian faith, allowed Myra to find her place in God, and God in her.
When her husband felt the lord’s calling to become a priest in the Reformed Episcopal Church, Myra was inspired by a calling of her own. Though her husband tried to steer her away from it, Myra willed her way to a church home of her own as a priest in the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
That was an awakening for Myra’s spiritual being. She began to embrace the word in a way she did not before. It not only began to benefit her character, but the people around her.
She helped those in need without hesitation. She gave money to those in need that should have gone to herself; she gave time to her church that she did not have. She was so selfless that she even caused others to be selfless. Through her efforts, she convinced her husband to mentor and assist young boys in need, and would eventually take them in as if they were her own children.
She also reunited her family through meals and the holidays, giving her brothers and sisters the opportunity to join and experience a close family that they did not have while they were children. With ease, she united her broken up early-life with her brothers and sisters, with her new home filled with a loving husband, two kids, Kevin Singleton and Denise Quarles, two grandchildren, Kaleb and Kennedy Singleton, and purpose.
The life of Myra Singleton-Thompson may have been taken from her well before her time, but not before she had the opportunity to make change. Hundreds of people filled the streets of Charleston to attend her funeral.
Myra’s life was lost with the eight other individuals on that fatal day, but her memory and legacy lives on.