|House Majority Whip|
January 3, 2019
January 3, 2007 - January 3, 2011
|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from South Carolina's 6th district
January 3, 1993
|House Assistant Democratic Leader|
January 3, 2011 - January 3, 2019
|Chris Van Hollen (Assistant to the Leader)|
|Ben Ray Luján (Assistant Speaker)|
|Chair of the House Democratic Conference|
January 16, 2006 - January 3, 2007
|Vice Chair of the House Democratic Conference|
January 3, 2003 - January 16, 2006
|John B. Larson|
James Enos Clyburn
July 21, 1940
Sumter, South Carolina, U.S.
(m. 1961; died 2019)
|Children||3, including Mignon|
|Website||U.S. House website|
Majority Whip website
James Enos Clyburn (born July 21, 1940) 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. He is a two-time Majority Whip, having previously served in the post from 2007 to 2011, and served as House Assistant Minority Leader from 2011 to 2019.
Currently in his 14th term as a congressman, Clyburn has served as U.S. Representative for South Carolina's 6th congressional district since 1993. His congressional district includes most of the majority-black precincts in and around Columbia and Charleston, as well as nearly all of South Carolina's share of the Black Belt. Clyburn is the current dean of the South Carolina congressional delegation.
Clyburn has been the third-ranking Democrat in the House behind Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer since 2007, serving as Majority Whip behind House Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer during periods of Democratic House control, and as Assistant Minority Leader behind Minority Leader Pelosi and Minority Whip Hoyer during periods of Republican House control. After the Democrats took control of the House following the 2018 midterm elections, Clyburn was re-elected Majority Whip in January 2019 on the opening of the 116th Congress, alongside the re-elected Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer, marking the second time the trio has served in these roles together.
Clyburn played a pivotal role in the 2020 presidential election by endorsing Joe Biden three days before the South Carolina Democratic primary. Clyburn's endorsement came at a time when Biden's campaign was suffering from three disappointing finishes in the Iowa and Nevada caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. The South Carolina win for Biden days before Super Tuesday instantly transformed his campaign; the momentum led him to capture the Democratic nomination and later the presidency.
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.
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 and 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.
Following the 1990 census South Carolina's district lines were redrawn. Due to prior racial discrimination before the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Supreme Court required the 6th district, which had previously included the northeastern portion of the state, to be redrawn as a black-majority district. Five-term incumbent Robin Tallon's home in Florence was in the district, but he chose to retire. Five candidates, all of whom were African American, ran for the Democratic nomination for the seat. Clyburn's campaign was led by NAACP activist Isaac W. Williams.
Clyburn secured 55% of the vote in the primary, eliminating the need for an expected run-off. As expected, he won the general election in November handily, becoming the first Democrat to represent a significant portion of Columbia since 1965 and the first Democrat to represent a significant portion of Charleston since 1981. He has been reelected 15 times with no substantive Republican opposition.
Clyburn has beaten every Republican candidate he has faced in a congressional election. In 2008, Clyburn defeated Nancy Harrelson by 68% to 32%. The next election in 2010, he defeated Jim Pratt, 65% to 34%. And in 2012, Clyburn defeated Anthony Culler, 73% to 25%.
Clyburn was elected as vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2003, the third-ranking post in the caucus. He became the chairman of the Democratic Caucus in the House in early 2006 after the caucus chairman Bob Menendez was appointed to the Senate. After the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the 2006 election, Clyburn was unanimously elected as Majority Whip in the 110th Congress.
Clyburn would have faced a challenge from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Rahm Emanuel, but Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi persuaded Emanuel to run for Democratic Caucus Chairman. Clyburn was interviewed by National Public Radio's Morning Edition on January 12, 2007, and acknowledged the difficulty of counting votes and rallying the fractious Democratic caucus, while his party held the majority in the House.
After the 2010 elections, the Democrats lost their majority in the House. The departing Speaker Nancy Pelosi ran for the Minority Leader position in order to remain the House party leader, while Clyburn announced that he would challenge Steny Hoyer, the second-ranking Democrat in the House and the outgoing Majority Leader, for the Minority Whip post. Clyburn had the support of the Congressional Black Caucus, which wanted to keep an African-American in the House leadership, while Hoyer had 35 public endorsements, including three standing committee chairs. On November 13, Pelosi announced a deal whereby Hoyer would stand as Minority Whip, while a "number three" leadership position styled Assistant Leader would be created for Clyburn. The exact responsibilities of Clyburn's assistant leader office were unclear, though it was said to replace the Assistant to the Leader post previously held by Chris Van Hollen. He had attended all leadership meetings but was not in the leadership hierarchy.
Clyburn is regarded as liberal in his political stances, actions and votes. A 2007 ranking by the National Journal ranked him as the 77th most liberal of all 435 US congressional representatives at the time, and with a score of 81, indicating that the conductors of this study found his voting record to be more liberal than 81 percent of other members of the US House of Representatives based on their recent voting records.
Clyburn has an established liberal stance on health care, education, organized labor and environmental conservation issues, based on his legislative actions as well as evaluations and ratings by pertinent interest groups.
In 2009, Clyburn introduced the Access for All Americans Act. The $26 billion sought by this Act would provide funding to quadruple the number of community health centers in the US that provide medical care to uninsured and low-income citizens.
The American Public Health Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, The Children's Health Fund, and other health care interest groups rate Clyburn highly based on his voting record on pertinent issues. Other groups in this field, such as the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, gave Clyburn a rating of zero in 2014.
Despite his opposition to partial-birth abortion, Clyburn is regarded to be pro-abortion rights on the issue of abortion, as shown by his high ratings from Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, and low rating from the National Right to Life Committee.
Clyburn has continuously sought new and additional funding for education. He has gained additional funding for special education and lower interest rates on federal student loans. In many sessions has Clyburn sought, sponsored and/or voted for improvements in Pell Grant funding for college loans.
Although he was criticized for a previous expenditure of 160 million dollars to expand South Carolina's ports, he stated he would continue to make funding available for further expansions. The plan is to deepen the ports to allow for larger commercial ships to arrive from the Panama Canal which is currently being expanded to allow for larger ships to pass through. This is due primarily because of larger commercial ships coming from China, and also China's extremely high demand of soy beans, which are produced in South Carolina, but must be sent to larger ports for exporting. This measure will benefit South Carolina business and farmers and is thus heavily backed by these groups.
Many national labor unions, including the AFL-CIO, the United Auto Workers, the Communication Workers Association, and the International Brotherhood of Boilermakers, give Clyburn outstanding ratings based on his voting record on issues that pertain to labor and employment.
Clyburn has opposed legislation to increase offshore drilling for oil or natural gas. Instead, he has promoted use of nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, cheaper than wind and solar energy.  Members of the nuclear power industry have expressed that there is a mutual respect between Clyburn and themselves. Clyburn pushed for a 2010 contract to convert plutonium from old weapons into nuclear fuel.
Clyburn has been viewed favorably by organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters and Defenders of Wildlife. However, he did anger environmentalists when he proposed building a $150 million bridge across a swampy area of Lake Marion in Calhoun county.
On July 31, 2007, Clyburn said in a broadcast interview that it would be a "real big problem" for the Democratic Party if General David Petraeus issued a positive report in September, as it would split the Democratic caucus on whether to continue to fund the Iraq War. While this soundbite caused some controversy, the full quote was, in reference to 47 member Blue Dog caucus, "I think there would be enough support in that group to want to stay the course and if the Republicans were to stay united as they have been, then it would be a problem for us."
Clyburn was officially neutral during the primary battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, but former President Bill Clinton blamed Clyburn for Hillary's 29-point defeat in the South Carolina primary and the two of them had a heated telephone conversation. Clyburn himself had voted for Obama, saying "How could I ever look in the faces of our children and grandchildren had I not voted for Barack Obama?" Clyburn negatively viewed Bill Clinton's remarks regarding Obama winning the South Carolina primary. Clinton had compared Obama's victory to Rev. Jesse Jackson's win in the 1988 primary election. "Black people are incensed all over this," said Clyburn. Clinton responded that the campaign "played the race card on me," denying any racial tone in the comment. Speaking with the New York Times, Clyburn said such actions could lead to a longtime division between the former president and his once most reliable constituency. "When he was going through his impeachment problems, it was the black community that bellied up to the bar," Clyburn said. "I think black folks feel strongly that this is a strange way for President Clinton to show his appreciation."
On December 18, 2019, Clyburn voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. 
On April 2, 2020, Pelosi announced that Clyburn will chair the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.
Clyburn is considered a power broker in the state of South Carolina. For almost thirty years, he has hosted an annual fish fry "that every four years becomes a must-attend event for presidential hopefuls."
During the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, Clyburn supported former House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt until he dropped out of the race and afterwards supported John Kerry. Clyburn was one of the 31 who voted in the House not to count the electoral votes from Ohio in the 2004 presidential election amid a dispute over irregularities.
Like other Democratic congressional leaders, Clyburn remained publicly uncommitted throughout most of the 2008 presidential primary elections. Despite being officially neutral Clyburn personally voted for Obama in the South Carolina primary. Former President Bill Clinton accused Clyburn of being responsible for Hillary's heavy 29-point defeat in South Carolina, while Clyburn criticized Bill Clinton's comments on race comparing Obama's win to that of Rev. Jesse Jackson. Clyburn eventually endorsed Obama on June 3 immediately before the Montana and South Dakota primaries. At this time, Obama's lead in pledged delegates was substantial enough that the final two primaries would not have been able to reverse it.
Clyburn's endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden on February 26, 2020, three days before the South Carolina primary, was considered pivotal in the 2020 Democratic Presidential nomination contest. Several analyses have determined the endorsement changed the trajectory of the race, due to Clyburn's influence over the state's African-Americans, who make up the majority of its Democratic electorate. Prior to Clyburn's endorsement, Biden had not won a single primary and had placed fourth, fifth, and a distant second in the Iowa, New Hampshire, and Nevada caucuses and primaries respectively. Biden utilized momentum from his win in South Carolina to take a delegate lead on Super Tuesday and clinch the nomination a month later, and eventually win the presidency in November.
In January 2017, Clyburn voted against a House resolution condemning the UN Security Council Resolution 2334, which called Israeli settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank a "flagrant violation" of international law and a major obstacle to peace.
During the 2020 Democratic Primary, Jim Clyburn, when considering an endorsement for president of the United States, cited Pete Buttigieg's sexual orientation as an issue in endorsing the candidate, saying it was "no question" that his sexuality would hurt his popularity and that "[he] knew a lot of people [his] age that felt that way." Adding to the comments, Clyburn stated "I'm not going to sit here and tell you otherwise, because I think everybody knows that's an issue." In the wake of Clyburn's comments, then-candidate Kamala Harris dismissed his comments as "nonsense" and "a trope" of the African American community. However, the Benson Strategy Group reported that "being gay was a barrier for these voters, particularly for the men who seemed uncomfortable discussing it."
Clyburn was married to librarian Emily England Clyburn from 1961 until her death in 2019. They had three daughters. Their eldest daughter, Mignon Clyburn, was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission by President Obama.
|U.S. House of Representatives|
| Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th congressional district
| Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
Eddie Bernice Johnson
| House Majority Whip
| House Majority Whip
|Party political offices|
| Vice Chair of the House Democratic Conference
John B. Larson
| Chair of the House Democratic Conference
Chris Van Hollen
as House Democratic Assistant to the Leader
| House Assistant Democratic Leader
Ben Ray Luján
as Assistant Speaker of the House of Representatives
|U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
| United States Representatives by seniority