Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., came to be nicknamed “Super Simmons from the Super Seventh, ” partly because he was the “spiritual heart of the Seventh Episcopal District” , and partly because of how much he put into his work. He had a particular love of jazz music, the visual arts, cars, and teaching the truths of the Word of God. . Over the course of his life, he served as one of the first black bus drivers for Greyhound, served his country in the US Army, and served as pastor to thousands of people. He is remembered as a teacher, confidant, road trip companion, adviser, and deeply devoted shepherd of the churches he served.
Raised in Mullins, SC, Rev. Simmons had a life marked with education, both in and outside the classroom. He graduated Palmetto High School in Mullins early, earned his bachelors and two advanced degrees, all the while raising a family. When he set out for something, he put all of himself into it.
Rev. Simmons earned his bachelors at Allen University in Education Administration. He went on to receive both a Master’s in Social Work from the University of South Carolina and a Master of Divinity with a concentration in Leadership and Theology from Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia.
Rev. Simmons served in the Army during the Vietnam war, serving honorably, and even losing toes to frostbite, and was awarded the purple heart. This may have left him susceptible to infection his whole life, but didn’t stop him in the least. After serving in the US Army, he was employed by the South Carolina Department of Corrections as a counselor as well as a teacher, as well as working for Greyhound as one of the first black drivers. His son, Daniel Simmons Jr. remembers riding with his father during those days;
“It was hard; the country was in transition. So to have a black driver and a black youth in the front seat, I saw a lot”Daniel Simmons Jr.
He later moved from the Greyhound Bus Company to a federal job counseling disabled veterans at the VA. He seemed to always welcome the opportunity to serve.
Though descended from a family of AME pastors it took a while to come to the ministry. But once he did, he became a fourth generation preacher. Over the course of his life, Rev. Simmons served as Senior Pastor in 8 different AME churches, including Wayman AME, Pleasant Grove AME, Allen Chapel AME, Greater Zion AME, Friendship AME, Olive Branch AME, St. Stephens AME and St. Luke AME before retiring in 2013. This ministry spanned 30 years, and included a particular emphasis on teaching God’s Word. His son says he heard God’s call in the mid 1970’s, and the shift changed his demeanor. At his direction, the first Hot Meal Program at Greater Zion AME in Awendaw, SC was launched and opened to all citizens. His daughter remembers;
“It’s life changing what God does when he comes into your heart. He felt a responsibility to be the person he felt God wanted him to be.”Rose Simmons
“You can’t receive grace with a closed fist. My father had an open hand and an honest heart.”Daniel Simmons Jr.
After his retirement, Rev. Pinckney asked him to join Mother Emanuel’s ministerial staff, where he continued his dedication to teaching and leadership development. It was with his coaching that Myra Thompson delivered her Bible study that night, with him seated across the table from her, and with his job to keep the discussion on track. He had been mentoring her on the meaning of Mark 4, the parable of that night. He never missed Wednesday Bible study, and study was a great passion of his.
“My father’s hobby was studying. He didn’t read many books, an author or two, but he liked to study the Bible, taking notes and writing sermons.”Rose Simmons, Daughter
Rev. Simmons leaves behind a family he was deeply proud of, whom are also proud of him, including his wife Annie, two children Daniel and Rose, and his four grandchildren Alana, Daniel II, Ava, and Anya. They released a statement:
“Although he died at the hands of hate, he lived in the hands of love. We believe Rev. Simmons would want people to celebrate his life in love and peace. Please continue to pray for our family and the families of the other victims.
“We would like to thank everyone for their thoughts and prayers concerning our beloved father, and grandfather, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. He was a distinguished man who served his God, country, and community well. His dedication to his profession and the AME church left a legacy for many to follow.”Statement of the Family of Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.
Rev Simmons is said to have died rushing to Rev. Pinckney’s side, saying “Let me check on my Pastor.” His daughter Rose remarks that her father ran the course of his life to the fullest, even until his last moments. The Reverend was the last of the Nine to leave the earth, passing in the hospital after the shooting.