James Enos Clyburn is an American politician and a Democratic member of the U.S. House of Representatives from South Carolina. He has served as House Majority Whip since 2019.
Early life and education
Clyburn was born in Sumter, South Carolina, the son of Enos Lloyd Clyburn, a fundamentalist minister, and his wife, Almeta (née Dizzley), a beautician. A distant relative of his was George W. Murray, an organizer for the Colored Farmers Alliance (CFA), who was elected as a Republican South Carolina Congressman in the 53rd and 54th U.S. Congresses in the late nineteenth century. He and other black politicians had strongly opposed the 1895 state constitution, which essentially disenfranchised most African-American citizens, a situation that the state maintained for more than half a century until passage of federal civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s.
Clyburn graduated from Mather Academy (later named Boylan-Haven-Mather Academy) in Camden, South Carolina, then attended South Carolina State College (now South Carolina State University), a historically black college in Orangeburg. He was initiated into the Omega Psi Phi fraternity and graduated with a bachelor's degree in history.
For his first full-time position after college, Clyburn taught at C.A. Brown High School in Charleston.
Early political career
Clyburn became involved in politics during the 1969 Charleston hospital strike. After assisting the settlement of the protests at the Medical University of South Carolina, Clyburn became involved in St. Julian Devine's campaign for a seat on the Charleston city council in 1969. Clyburn came up with the campaign's slogan "Devine for Ward Nine." When Devine won the race, he became the first African American to hold a seat on the city council since Reconstruction. Clyburn later credited that campaign as the reason he got into electoral politics.
After an unsuccessful run for the South Carolina General Assembly, he moved to Columbia to join the staff of Governor John C. West in 1971. West called Clyburn and offered him a job as his advisor after reading Clyburn's response to his loss in the newspaper. After West appointed Clyburn as his advisor, Clyburn became the first minority advisor to a governor in the history of South Carolina.
In the aftermath of the Orangeburg massacre of 1968, when three protesting students at South Carolina State were killed by police, West appointed Clyburn as the state's human affairs commissioner. He served in this position until 1992, when he stepped down to run for Congress. The Orangeburg massacre a civil-rights protest pre-dated the 1970 Kent State shootings and Jackson State killings, in which the National Guard at Kent State, and police and state highway patrol at Jackson State, killed student protesters demonstrating against the United States invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.