President Barack Obama has said he is, “One of a handful of people who, when they speak, the entire Congress listens.” As Assistant Democratic Leader in the 113th Congress, the number three Democrat in the House, James E. Clyburn is the leadership liaison to the Appropriations Committee and one of the Democratic Caucus’ primary liaisons to the White House. Working with the internal caucuses, he plays a prominent role in messaging and outreach.
His 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. He was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter when he was 12 years old, helped organize many civil rights marches and demonstrations as a student leader at South Carolina State College, and even met his wife Emily in jail during one of his incarcerations.
When 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 1999, and his reputation as a leader and consensus-builder helped him win a difficult three-way race for House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair in 2002. Three years later, he was unanimously elected Chair of the Democratic Caucus. 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 worked to respond to the needs of America’s diverse communities. He championed rural communities supporting the development of regional water projects, community health centers, and broadband connections. He has supported higher education by leading the charge for increased Pell grants; investing millions in science and math programs and historic preservation at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. He has encouraged economic development by securing funding for Empowerment Zones; investing in green technology development such as nuclear, wind, hydrogen and biofuels; and directing 10 percent of Recovery Act funding to communities 20 percent under the poverty level for the past 30 years. Clyburn was instrumental in advancing into law measures to resolve historic discrimination issues, significantly reducing the statutory disparity in cocaine sentencing and compensating African and Native American farmers who suffered racial discrimination under the USDA loan program
Jim and Emily Clyburn have three daughters, Mignon, Jennifer Reed, and Angela Hannibal; two sons-in-law, Walter Reed and Cecil Hannibal; and three grandchildren, Walter A Clyburn Reed, Sydney Alexis Reed, and Layla Joann Clyburn Hannibal.