James Clyburn was born in Sumter, S.C. on July 21, 1940. During his college years and before, Clyburn was active in the Civil Rights Movement and was one of those arrested in a march at the South Carolina State House on March 2, 1961. The occasion was significant because those arrested, including Clyburn, had their convictions overturned in the Edwards v. South Carolina Supreme Court Case which ruled the arrests violated the protesters First Amendment rights.
After graduating from South Carolina State, Clyburn served on the staff of Governor John West and was the South Carolina Human Affairs Commissioner from 1974-1992. Clyburn began serving in Congress in 1993.
Since his election to Congress, Clyburn has been prominent as the House Democratic Whip beginning in 2007. Prior to that, he was co-President of his freshman class and was chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1999.
While in Congress, “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.” (from his website)
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