Friends, family remember ‘Super’ Simmons in final funeral for victims of Charleston church shootings

Members of the Fort Jackson Honor Platoon fold the American Flag draped over the casket of the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., during his burial service at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.
Members of the Fort Jackson Honor Platoon fold the American Flag draped over the casket of the Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr., during his burial service at Fort Jackson National Cemetery. gmelendez@thestate.com

The Rev. Daniel Simmons Sr. was “super,” his friends say: A super gentleman, a super friend, a super leader of the church and servant of Christ.

He was “Super” Simmons.

Hundreds filled Columbia’s Bethel AME Church Thursday for the final service for the nine victims of the June 17 shootings at Charleston’s historic Emanuel AME Church.

They gathered as much in celebration of the life Simmons lived and the God he served as in mourning of the man they lost.

“Servant of God, well done,” Dr. William Smith, a former Emanuel pastor, said of his friend.

Simmons, 74, was among the Emanuel parishioners who gathered for Bible study when a white Columbia area man, who had sat among them as they prayed and studied, opened fire.

Simmons was the only one of the nine be taken out of the church alive. He later died at a Charleston hospital.

“Evil thought it could overtake our faith” that night of the shootings and in their aftermath, Presiding Elder Novell Goff said. “What the devil meant for evil, God meant for good.”

In the same show of faith and love that has characterized the AME church’s response to the Emanuel tragedy, Simmons’ mourners worshiped unabashedly before his casket, where he lay with an eternal smile resting on his face. They sang of peace like a river and of their Lord’s comfort and protection over his people.

Numerous friends and relatives shared memories of the man they lovingly called “Daddy,” “Dan” or – as countless knew him – “Super” Simmons.

They remembered him as the chief of his family, a devoted shepherd of his church, a confidante and adviser, a road-trip companion and lover of jazz music and cars.

“He was a great friend,” said the Rev. Dr. Charles Young, who was mentored by Simmons in his early pastoral career. “The scripture says a friend loves at all times. I’ve never known the day that Dan did not love. And I’m going to miss him, and I appreciate him.”

A graduate of Palmetto High School in Mullins, Simmons earned a bachelor’s degree from Allen University in Columbia, a masters in social work from the University of South Carolina and a masters of divinity from Lutheran Seminary.

Simmons was a fourth generation preacher who served at 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.

He worked at the S.C. Department of Corrections as a teacher and a counselor. Throughout his career he also was employed at the Greyhound Bus Co., Metropolitan Life Insurance Co., Department of Veterans Affairs and the Vocational Rehabilitation Center.

Simmons was married to Annie Graham Simmons of Mullins for 24 years. He leaves two children, Daniel Lee Simmons Jr. and Rose Ann Simmons.

People have told Rose Ann Simmons all her life that she acts just like her father, she shared with the audience at his memorial.

For a long time, she said, she was shy to admit it was true.

She likened her father’s final moments to finishing the race of life, leaping the final hurdle of death.

“With no breath left in him at all and no more race to run, my father, the Right Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons Sr., fell at his finish,” she said. “But it was a strong finish because he fell at the feet of Jesus crying, ‘Holy, holy, holy art thou, oh God.’”

Simmons, an Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War and was awarded a Purple Heart, was buried Thursday afternoon at Fort Jackson National Cemetery.

Reach Ellis at (803) 771-8307.

Related stories from The State in Columbia SC