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1940 – James E Clyburn – Congressman D-South Carolina was born in Sumter, South Carolina. The Highest Ranked Black in the U.S. Congress House of Representatives. 

James Enos “Jim” Clyburn  is the U.S. Representative for South Carolina’s 6th congressional district, serving since 1993, and the Assistant Democratic Leader since 2011.   He was previously House Majority Whip, serving in that post from 2007 to 2011. He is a member of theDemocratic Party. The district includes FlorenceSumter and large portions of Columbia and Charleston.

As Assistant Democratic Leader, he is the third-ranking Democrat in the House behind House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer.

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 disfranchised 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.

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Clyburn attended South Carolina State College (now South Carolina State University), a historically black college inOrangeburg. 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

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. He was appointed as the first minority advisor to a South Carolina governor. In the aftermath of the Orangeburg massacre of 1974, when 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.

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U.S. House of Representatives


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. Before this ruling, African Americans were a minority in each South Carolinian district.

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Five-term incumbent Robin Tallon‘s home was in the district, but he chose to retire. Five candidates, all of whom were African American, ran for the Democratic Party nomination for the seat. As this district was heavily Democratic, the primary was understood to be the real contest.

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. He has been reelected eight times with no substantive Republican opposition. From 1998 to 2006, his opponent was Gary McLeod, a conservative Republican from Clarendon County.

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