Approaching his 75th birthday next month, Rev. Art Pinckney was born on Feb. 18, 1944 in the Snowden community in Mount Pleasant.
Pinckney went to Long Point Elementary School. He remembers in 1954, when he was in the fourth grade, they closed the old school and moved to Jennie Moore Elementary School as they made things "separate but equal" during the end of racial segregation in schools.
He describes it as a great experience going from a school with pumps and an outhouse to a school with running water, an indoor bathroom, a playground with swings and classrooms with good lighting. Then, Pinckney attended Laing High School seventh through 12th grade and played on the football team during his last three years.
"They told me I was a star running back," Pinckney said.
He joined the United States Army Reserve while in high school. His unit was called while in 11th grade and he graduated in 1962. In 1963, he spent six months in the Army Reserve and transferred into the Army. Pinckney recalls he went to Fort Jackson then to Fort Bragg, N.C. and then to Fort Sill in Oklahoma where he was in the artillery unit.
Pinckney explained their artillery mobile guns were replaced with bigger guns. He said they replaced the M109 howitzer with 155 mm guns when he was in the service. Pinckney said the purpose of the artillery was to light up the sky during the night time for the military to see where the enemy was located.
After completing training, Pinckney went to Germany in 1964 for two and half years. Pinckney explained that he was stationed during the time of the Berlin Wall. If anything were to break loose, the first army division would attack. He was stationed in a town within Schweinfurt, he said they called it "pig town."
"I know we were close to the Berlin Wall. But some of my memories aren't too good. Even though its in the '60s and you're in the military, you realize that everything wasn't as equal as you thought it would be. I saw that," Pinckney said.
He recalls the day he was proud going downtown Charleston to the bus station in his uniform to go to training at Fort Jackson in 1963. Pinckney said instead of going around to the back window like most African Americans did, he tried to go get his ticket inside the bus station since he was in uniform. He remembers a man calling him the N-word and telling him to go back outside and get his ticket from the window to go back to Jackson.
"I thought he would respect the uniform enough to give me the ticket, 'cause you went off to defend this country. Anyways, that was the language he used and I went around and got my ticket," he said.
Pinckney said the racial tension got better over the years, but it spilled into the military as the Civil Rights movement was going on. Since he couldn't march or protest while in the military, Pinckney said he got away from some of that by going into the Special Services in 1964, while in Germany. He explained the only Special Services sports they offered in Schweinfurt were boxing and baseball.
"I went into boxing. I thought I was tough. I knew how to play baseball, but figured that wasn't tough enough. I learned later though I wasn't as tough as I thought," Pinckney laughed. "But the physical training was great; it got me in shape."
He explained boxing kept the morale of the troops up and they would travel to different towns for fights. He said their boxing matches were well attended by troops, family members and native Germans.
Pinckney started in the regular field, then joined boxing and then went back in the field to his regular unit.
In the field and training, he would set sight on guns, which is very important when shooting to know where you're aiming. He explained his service was during the Vietnam era but he never went there. He joked that the only combat he saw was in the boxing ring, aside from monthly simulated combat.
Pinckney recalled a few accidents that happened during his training. He remembers one person died because they forgot to clear their weapon. Another man lifted their head out from the hatch while going under an overpass. Pinckney said that he didn't witness them but knew they happened and being so young, they made him refocus.
Pinckney served in the military to a first unit. He said that within a year of being home in Charleston he got a job at the Charleston Shipyard. There too he claimed he was subjected to racial animosity.
He had no interest in going back to the military once he had a job. His longest time away from Mount Pleasant was during his service.
When he came out of the military he started having seizures and sometimes couldn't sleep because of head trauma endured from boxing and shoulder injuries in the field. He stopped boxing and only played a little baseball in the community for fun. Pinckney worked as a pipefitter at the Shipyard until he left with an injury in 1984.
After his service, Pinckney went to school to get an associate degree from Trident College (formerly Palmer College), got a certificate in electronics, took religious and history classes at Charleston Southern (formerly Baptist College) and then went to College of Charleston but dropped out before receiving a degree. Pinckney did end up getting a Bachelor's degree in theology from W.O.R.D. Ministries Christian Center.
His father, Abraham Pinckney Jr. is deceased, but his mother Beulah Pinckney is 97-years old and lives in Mount Pleasant. His parents had 12 children altogether, two passed away at an early age. Pinckney said his mother has a sharp memory and will celebrate another birthday in September.
He met his wife, Roberta Pinckney in 1969 but the two didn't get married until 1979. Shortly after they met she moved to Atlanta to work and get a degree as a medical technologist at Emory. They caught back up with each other at church when she moved back to Mount Pleasant in 1976. They still go to the same church, Olive Branch AME Church. After nearly 40 years of marriage, they raised seven children and have 13 grandchildren altogether. Every Monday, together, Pinckney and Roberta deliver East Cooper Meals on Wheels to a route of about 12 houses.
Pinckney also served as the president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Mount Pleasant Branch for more than 10 years. He described some of their objectives such as getting blacks jobs in area grocery stores beyond carrying groceries to cars. He said the NAACP fought Doshers and Food Lion locally to allow African Americans positions as cashiers and managers.
Today, Pinckney is an active member of the American Legion Moultrie Post 136 and speaks highly of their work.
"We do so many good things for the community. We help veterans in need. It's a community service organization. Any time you're volunteering in community service organization, I love that. That's what I think we should be all about; serving others," Pinckney said. "If you're here and if you have the strength, you should serve each other. All of us should be missionaries, helping each other. That's why I'm involved."