Brady is sad to see Merrill Chapman retire from her duties as Director of Brady South Carolina, and is grateful for all that she has contributed to the gun violence prevention movement. We appreciate her continuing efforts to motivate other activists to pick up where she is leaving off.
As a child, a cousin of Merrill’s unintentionally shot another cousin while hunting. Later, a close family friend died by firearm suicide. Merrill joined the gun violence prevention movement when the South Carolina legislature considered a dangerous bill to allow concealed carry of weapons in bars. Once it was enacted, she joined a group that assisted bar owners who chose to opt-out of the measure.
The 2015 massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston heightened Merrill’s fervor to end gun violence, and that’s when she joined Brady, ultimately working her way up from a grassroots member to State Lead.
“South Carolina Brady has done more vigils, rallies, panels, and lobbying visits than I can count,” she says. “It's been a long journey, and I have met many people who've become friends.”
After the 2016 mass shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Merrill organized a group of Brady volunteers to travel to Florida for a rally, which was attended by the Reverend Dr. Betty Deas Clark of Mother Emanuel. When Rev. Clark asked for a moment of silence, there were hundreds of people with kids, babies, and dogs, and yet, there was absolute silence. “It made the hair on the back of my neck stand up,” Merrill says.
Another proud moment was a series of Brady-sponsored Conversations with Candidates in 2020. Most of the Democratic presidential candidates attended a public forum and spoke with State Rep. JA Moore, who lost his sister in the Mother Emanuel tragedy. Among the many others she has met throughout her advocacy, Merrill singles out State Rep. Wendell Gilliard, whom she has known since her thirties.
“Public speaking about gun violence has been the bulk of what I do. I’ve spoken at the South Carolina statehouse many times and on panels with state law enforcement and the attorney general. Most recently, I spoke to the state bar association. My plan is to continue public speaking to inspire other folks to get involved.”— Merrill Chapman
The Charleston native has had a colorful career, starting out as a radio DJ and then finding her voice as a community activist. In addition to her 10 years with Brady, she has been co-chair of Our Revolution South Carolina; vice president of the ACLU of Charleston; and president of the Charleston chapter of the South Carolina Progressive Network. Chapman also founded ThinkingPeople, a peace and social justice organization that sent busloads of people to marches in Washington, D.C., to protest the war in Afghanistan. She worked as the president of the South Carolina Working Families Party; emceed the Women’s March in Charleston; and has participated in Black Lives Matter, the Anita Hill Celebration, and the National Writers Union.
For all of her activism, Merrill has won numerous awards including the Frederick Douglass Thunder and Lightning Award from the South Carolina Progressive Network. The Charleston City Paper named her Best Activist, and most recently she was awarded the Triumph Award from the South Carolina National Action Network.
Please join us in wishing Merrill every best wish in her future endeavors.