As many of you know, Cynthia Graham Hurd was one of the nine victims of the tragic shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Downtown Charleston last Wednesday night. Usually we are shielded from the full horror of such events because they happen somewhere else to people that we do not know. But this is different. It is personal for many of us because we knew Cynthia and are familiar with the storied history of Mother Emanuel.
Cynthia was a dedicated and resourceful librarian, who thrived on working with, and helping others. A recent article in the Charleston Post and Courier quoted a 2003 interview in which she said, “I like helping people find answers,” adding that the best thing about being a librarian was service. “Your whole reason for being there is to help people.” Cynthia practiced what she preached by working for the Charleston County Public library for 31 years, serving as branch manager of the John L. Dart Branch from 1990 to 2011 before becoming manager of the St. Andrews Regional Library. She also served as a part-time reference librarian at the College of Charleston, having worked at the College since the 1990s.
Born and reared in Charleston, Cynthia attended Clark Atlanta University and received her graduate degree from the University of South Carolina’s School of Library and Information Sciences. A devoted member of the Emanuel AME Church, Cynthia also was a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc and the Charleston Housing Authority.
Cynthia’s loss will not only be felt by her family and friends but also by those of us who knew her professionally. Countless library patrons that looked to Cynthia for guidance and assistance will also mourn her passing.
What others are saying about Cynthia:
“Some of us knew Cynthia, but many of us didn’t have the opportunity to meet this wonderful woman who was part of our library family. Cynthia was a highly skilled librarian, supportive colleague and good friend. As our longest serving part-time research librarian, Cynthia provided the College community with the highest level of service as she assisted our patrons on weekends. Cynthia was uniquely adept at assisting anyone from any walk of life as she met you where you were, made you feel comfortable and helped you receive the information and services you needed. She was extremely talented and professional with a sharp wit and great sense of humor. In losing Cynthia we’ve truly lost a piece of ourselves and we are all just devastated. We express our deepest sympathy to all of the families who are suffering because of this tragedy and pray that no one else has to experience this type of senseless loss.” – James Williams, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston
“She was a librarian’s librarian. She enjoyed working with the kids, but she also realized her job extended beyond the walls of the library. She helped them discover themselves and learn skills that gave them the ability to live and grow, but she also was there to help people work through their problems. It went beyond just checking out books and helping people find jobs; she was there for people throughout the community who sought her advice on a variety of issues.” – Malcolm Graham, former North Carolina State Senator and Cynthia’s brother
“A patron just came by today on Sunday afternoon and mentioned how helpful Cynthia was not only at the Addlestone Library, but also many years ago when she helped him at the Dart Branch Public Library on Upper King Street. This patron explained that he had been living in the area on and off for many years and was in the process of continuing his education at Trident Tech. He expressed how grateful he was when she helped him at the Information Desk a few weeks ago and how sad he was about not thanking her enough for the many decades of service at various libraries.
I’m sure there are many similar stories out there. Indeed, Cynthia went out of her way to assist anyone and everyone. She will continue to inspire and she will be sorely missed by many.” – Mike Dodd, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston
“She really opened up to me what library service meant. (It’s) not just a building where you come for story time but a place where you really can get help … whether it is helping someone with a resume or helping them use a computer a little bit better.” – Kim Odom, Dart Branch Library
Cynthia was our longest-serving part-time librarian, having been at the College since the 1990s, when our library was still housed in the Robert Scott Small Building. She was warm, cheerful, and collegial always. There was no question or issue that Cynthia would not tackle. We will miss her smiles and can-do attitude.” – Katina Strauch, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston
“She also was a person of very strong conviction and strong will. You always knew where she stood. She was not the kind of person where you had to figure it out… She was a very, very good woman… She gave of her time freely.” – Don Cameron, Charleston Housing Authority
“Always collegial with her fellow Evening and Weekend Librarians, Cynthia was a favorite with our Peer Staff student employees. Those of us who worked side by side with her will miss her smile and warmth and remember her fondly and often.” – Christa Poparad, Addlestone Library, College of Charleston
The above quotes were taken from emails, the Charleston Public Library website and the Charleston News and Courier article referenced above.
Savannah folk artist Panhandle Slim painted portraits of the Emanuel Nine. He says he hopes his paintings will end up in the hands of the victims’ families.
Tom is originally from Brooklyn N.Y but has spent his entire professional career in South Carolina, most recently as Head of Reference Services at the College of Charleston. As part of the Against the Grain and Charleston Conference team, he serves as the associate editor of the print ATG as well as the co-editor of the webpage. Tom’s conference duties include coordinating the Penthouse Suite interviews as well as the conference poster sessions.
He received his MLS from the University of Buffalo, SUNY and a second master’s in public administration from the College of Charleston and the Univ. of South Carolina. His wife Carol and he live in downtown Charleston and she is an artist and a tour guide offering historic walking tours of the city.