James E. Clyburn is the Assistant Democratic Leader in the United States House of Representatives. He previously served in the post from 2011 to 2018 and served as Majority Whip from 2007 to 2010 and 2019 to 2022, making him the first African American to serve multiple terms as Majority Whip. A native son of South Carolina, Clyburn has represented the state’s Sixth Congressional District since 1993.
Congressman Clyburn’s humble beginnings in Sumter, South Carolina, as the eldest son of an activist, fundamentalist minister and an independent, civic-minded beautician, grounded him securely in family, faith, and public service. A 1961 graduate of South Carolina State he began his professional career as a public-school teacher in Charleston, SC.
He later served as an employment counselor, and director of two youth and community development programs. In 1971, he joined the staff of Governor John C. West, becoming the first African American advisor to a South Carolina governor. In 1974 Governor West appointed him South Carolina Human Affairs Commissioner where he served until 1992 when he retired from state government to run for Congress.
When he came to Congress in 1993, Congressman Clyburn was elected co-president of his freshman class. He was subsequently elected Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Vice Chair, and Chair, of the House Democratic Caucus. From 2011 to 2018, he served as Assistant Democratic Leader. In addition to serving as Whip, Congressman Clyburn chairs the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Congressman Clyburn has led efforts to preserve and restore historic buildings on the campuses of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). He sponsored legislation creating the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor, the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the Congaree National Park, the Reconstruction Era National Historical Park and expanding the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site to South Carolina, Virginia, Delaware and Washington, DC.
Dedicated to making America’s greatness accessible and affordable for all citizens, his 10-20-30 federal funding formula - initially applied to three programs in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 - has been expanded to 15 accounts of the appropriations bills. Additionally, his Rural Energy Savings Program provides loans to families and businesses to implement durable, cost-effective energy efficiency measures. His “Accessible, Affordable Broadband for All” bill was included in the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill and is funded at a level of $65 billion.
The recipient of 36 honorary degrees, Congressman Clyburn numerous awards including: the Lyndon Baines Johnson Liberty and Justice for All Award in 2015; the Harry S Truman Foundation’s Good Neighbor Award in 2021; and the NAACP’s highest honor – the Spingarn Medal – in 2022. His endorsement of Joe Biden for president in 2020 is credited with boosting him to an overwhelming victory in the South Carolina and subsequent primaries and setting Biden on path to the presidency.
Congressman Clyburn and his late wife, Emily England Clyburn, met as college student protestors in an Orangeburg, South Carolina jail in 1960. The encounter led to a 58-year marriage, and they became parents of three daughters and grandparents to four grandchildren.