Rev. DePayne Vontrese Middleton, 49, of Hollywood, South Carolina, was born into a family of faith and ministers. In addition to powerful oratory skills, she also had a talent for singing and shared this gift with many congregations and choirs in the Charleston area. When she decided to become a minister, she served at Mt. Mariah Missionary Baptist Church in North Charleston before she ministered at Emanuel AME, which she joined in March of 2015.
The queen of her high school, Middleton earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Columbia College in 1989, and a master’s degree in organizational management from Southern Wesleyan University in 1994.
In 2005, she retired as the Charleston County director of the Community Development Block Grant program. In 2015, she began working for Southern Wesleyan University, her alma mater, as admissions coordinator for the school’s Charleston learning center. An experienced grant writer, she also worked for local and state agencies in various roles and as data manager/analyst for the Medical University of South Carolina. She twice managed the Charleston Census Bureau office.
She was the mother of four daughters: Gracyn, Kaylin, Hali and Czana. They were her life’s priority, and she instilled in them a passion for education, adventure and individuality.
Middleton lived a life dedicated to her Christian faith and to helping others. A co-minister recalled that any time Middleton encountered someone asking for prayers, she would promptly stop and pray with them on the spot.
Gov. Nikki Haley, Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley and Civil Rights leader Jesse Jackson attended Middleton’s funeral. The service concluded with clapping, praise and singing, the release of a flock of doves and the hymn, “When We All Get to Heaven.”