Sesquicentennial Keynote Speaker
Congressman James E. Clyburn
6th District - South Carolina
James E. (Jim) Clyburn is the Assistant Democratic Leader, the third-ranking Democrat, in the United States House of Representatives.
When Jim Clyburn came to Congress in 1993, he was elected co-president of his freshman class and quickly rose through leadership ranks. He was elected Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1998 and Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus in 2002. Three years later he was unanimously elected Chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and when Democrats regained the House majority in 2006, Congressman Clyburn was elevated by his colleagues to House Majority Whip.
As a national leader he has championed rural and economic development. Many of his initiatives have become law. His 10-20-30 federal funding formula was inserted into four sections of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The formula directs 10 percent of appropriated funds to communities where 20 percent or more of the population have lived at or below the poverty level for the past 30 years. Clyburn’s article on the program was published in the Harvard Journal on Legislation. This year, the Republican Speaker of the House has supported the formula’s inclusion in several accounts of the House Appropriations bills.
In 2011, Jim received the Distinguished Service Award from the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association for his legislation that established the Rural Energy Savings Program. That program allows electric cooperatives to make low-interest loans to their members to retrofit and weatherize their homes. These loans are then repaid through their monthly utility bills.
Clyburn is a passionate supporter of historic preservation and restoration programs. His initiatives have restored scores of historic buildings and sites on the campuses of historically black colleges and universities. His legislation created the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor and the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. He authored legislation that elevated the Congaree National Monument to a National Park, and he proposed model legislation for President Obama’s proclamation which established the Reconstruction Era National Monument in South Carolina’s Low-Country.
Jim Clyburn began his professional career as a public school teacher in Charleston, South Carolina. Before being elected to Congress he directed two community development programs, served on the staff of a South Carolina Governor, and ran a state agency under four South Carolina Governors – two Democrats and two Republicans. His memoir, Blessed Experiences: Genuinely Southern, Proudly Black, was published by the University of South Carolina Press in 2015. It has been described as a primer that should be read by every student interested in pursuing a career in public service.
His humble beginnings in Sumter, South Carolina as the eldest son of an activist, fundamentalist minister and an independent, civic minded beautician grounded Congressman Clyburn securely in family, faith and public service. He was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter at 12 years old, he helped organize many civil rights marches and demonstrations as a student leader at South Carolina State College, and he even met his wife Emily in jail following a student demonstration.
Jim and Emily England Clyburn have been married since June 1961. They are the parents of three daughters; Mignon, Jennifer Reed, and Angela Hannibal; two sons-in-law, Walter Reed and Cecil Hannibal; and four grandchildren, Walter A Clyburn Reed, Sydney Alexis Reed, Layla Joann Clyburn Hannibal, and Carter James Clyburn Hannibal.