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Jim Clyburn
Jim Clyburn official portrait 116th Congress.jpg
House Majority Whip
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded bySteve Scalise
In office
January 3, 2007 – January 3, 2011
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byRoy Blunt
Succeeded byKevin McCarthy
House Assistant Democratic Leader
In office
January 3, 2011 – January 3, 2019
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byChris Van Hollen (Assistant to the Leader)
Succeeded byBen Ray Luján (Assistant Speaker)
Chair of the House Democratic Conference
In office
January 16, 2006 – January 3, 2007
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byBob Menendez
Succeeded byRahm Emanuel
Vice Chair of the House Democratic Conference
In office
January 3, 2003 – January 16, 2006
LeaderNancy Pelosi
Preceded byBob Menendez
Succeeded byJohn B. Larson
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th district
Assumed office
January 3, 1993
Preceded byRobin Tallon
Personal details
James Enos Clyburn

(1940-07-21) July 21, 1940 (age 80)
Sumter, South Carolina, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
Emily England
m. 1961; died 2019)
Children3, including Mignon
EducationSouth Carolina State University (BA)
WebsiteUS House website
Majority Whip website

James Enos Clyburn (/ˈklˌbɜːrn/; born July 21, 1940) is an American politician of the Democratic Party serving as House Majority Whip since 2019.[1] 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 a mostly rural region within South Carolina. 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 Democratic Party presidential primaries by endorsing Democratic candidate Joe Biden three days before the South Carolina primary, which Biden won. Winning the South Carolina primary changed the trajectory of the race, giving Biden crucial momentum towards clinching the Democratic nomination.

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.[2][3] 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.[citation needed] 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.[4] 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.[5]

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.[6] 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.[7]

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.


The reconfigured 6th stretched across most of South Carolina's Black Belt, but swept south to include most of the black precincts around Charleston and west to include most of the black precincts around Columbia, including Clyburn's home. 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.[8]

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 defeated the Republican candidate Nancy Harrelson by 68% to 32%.[9]


Clyburn defeated the Republican candidate Jim Pratt, 65% to 34%.[citation needed]


Clyburn defeated the Republican candidate Anthony Culler, 73% to 25%.[citation needed]


Party leadership

Clyburn with President Barack Obama as he meets with House leaders
Clyburn with President Barack Obama as he meets with House leaders

Clyburn was elected as vice-chairman of the House Democratic Caucus in 2003, the third-ranking post in the caucus.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[10] 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.[citation needed]

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.[11] 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.[12][13]

On November 28, 2018, Clyburn was elected to serve his second stint as House Majority Whip.[14][15]


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.[16]

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.[17]


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.[18]

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.[19]

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.[20]


Clyburn has continuously sought new and additional funding for education. He has gained additional funding for special education[21] and lower interest rates on federal student loans.[22] In many sessions has Clyburn sought, sponsored and/or voted for improvements in Pell Grant funding for college loans.[23]

The National Education Association and the National Association of Elementary School Principals rate Clyburn very high, as do other education interest groups.[24]


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.[25]


Clyburn has consistently voted for increases in minimum wage income and to restrict employer interference with labor union organization.[26]

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.[27]

Clyburn with Nancy Pelosi and U2 lead singer Bono in 2006
Clyburn with Nancy Pelosi and U2 lead singer Bono in 2006

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. [28] Members of the nuclear power industry have expressed that there is a mutual respect between Clyburn and themselves.[29] Clyburn pushed for a 2010 contract to convert plutonium from old weapons into nuclear fuel.[29][30]

Clyburn has been viewed favorably by organizations such as the League of Conservation Voters and Defenders of Wildlife.[31] However, he did anger environmentalists when he proposed building a $150 million bridge across a swampy area of Lake Marion in Calhoun county.

War in Iraq

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."[32]

Bill Clinton comments

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?"[33] 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.[34] "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.[35] 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."[34]

Impeachment of Donald Trump

On December 18, 2019, Clyburn voted for both articles of impeachment against President Donald J. Trump. [36]

Committee assignments

On April 2, 2020, Pelosi announced that Clyburn will chair the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.[37]

Caucus memberships

Presidential endorsements

During the 2004 Democratic presidential primaries, Clyburn supported Dick Gephardt until he dropped out of the race and afterwards supported John Kerry. He 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.[41]

Clyburn, a superdelegate, remained uncommitted throughout most of the 2008 presidential primary elections. He 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.[42][43]

On February 19, 2016, Clyburn endorsed Democratic candidate and later nominee Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.[44]

For almost thirty years, Clyburn has hosted an annual fish fry "that every four years becomes a must-attend event for presidential hopefuls."[45][46]

On February 26, 2020, Clyburn endorsed Democratic Candidate Joe Biden in the 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary, three days before the South Carolina primary. Several analyses have determined that this was a pivotal endorsement which 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 the endorsement, Biden had not won a single primary, but he utilized momentum from his win in South Carolina to take a delegate lead on Super Tuesday and clinch the nomination a month later.[47][48][49]

Political positions


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.[50][51]

Personal life

Clyburn was married to librarian Emily England Clyburn from 1961 until her death in 2019.[52] They had three daughters. Their eldest daughter, Mignon Clyburn, was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission by President Obama.[53]

See also


  1. ^ A new era for SC: Clyburn, Scott get top House posts, James Rosen, McClatchy Newspapers, November 17, 2010.
  2. ^ "Chapter 12 | The parable of the talents – Crossing a Great Divide". May 17, 2007. Archived from the original on September 12, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2010.
  3. ^ Clyburn, Jim (May 29, 2003). "Dad's Diploma: Overcoming Injustice". The Black Commentator. Archived from the original on July 26, 2019.
  4. ^ "Aftermath · The Charleston Hospital Workers Movement, 1968-1969 · Lowcountry Digital History Initiative". Retrieved June 5, 2019.
  5. ^ Clyburn, James (2015). Blessed experiences : genuinely southern, proudly black. ISBN 978-1611175592. OCLC 893457675.
  6. ^ Saxon, Wolf (March 23, 2004). "John C. West, Crusading South Carolina Governor, Dies at 81". New York Times. Retrieved August 27, 2009.
  7. ^ Template:Cite
  8. ^ "Williams a leader for African-Americans in the South". The Greenville News. Retrieved January 19, 2018.
  9. ^ "South Carolina 2008 General Election Results". November 21, 2008. Retrieved February 26, 2009.
  10. ^ Babington, Charles; Weisman, Jonathan (November 10, 2006). "Reid, Pelosi Expected to Keep Tight Rein in Both Chambers". The Washington Post.
  11. ^ Dana Bash (November 13, 2010). "Deal ends Democratic leadership fight". CNN.
  12. ^ Fahrenthold, David A. "Alexis Covey-Brandt". The Washington Post.
  13. ^ Kane, Paul (November 8, 2010). "House Democrats could retain leadership team". The Washington Post.
  14. ^ "South Carolina's Jim Clyburn elected House majority whip | Palmetto Politics". November 28, 2018. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  15. ^ "S.C.'s Clyburn elected to No. 3 post in U.S. House". The State. Retrieved January 6, 2019.
  16. ^ 2007 Vote Ratings Archived September 10, 2015, at the Wayback Machine
  17. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Clyburn". May 14, 2010. Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  18. ^ Clyburn bill would extend healthcare Archived April 30, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  19. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Clyburn: Health Issues". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  20. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Clyburn: Abortion Issues". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  21. ^ Education Advocates Give Funding a Boost December 20, 2001 Archived February 3, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  22. ^ The Daily WhipLine April 17, 2008 Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ The Daily WhipLine, July 18, 2007 Archived February 26, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Clyburn: Education". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  25. ^ Gene Zaleski (August 8, 2012). "Clyburn says ports worth the investment". The Times and Democrat. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  26. ^ "Jim Clyburn on Jobs". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  27. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Clyburn: Labor". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  28. ^ America’s Energy Future July 11, 2008 Archived May 5, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ a b Lipton, Eric (September 5, 2010). "Congressional Charities Pulling In Corporate Cash". The New York Times. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  30. ^ "Shaw AREVA MOX Services Awarded Multi-Billion Dollar Construction Option for DOE Facility". Areva. Retrieved July 27, 2012.
  31. ^ "Project Vote Smart: Clyburn: Environmental Issues". Retrieved October 11, 2011.
  32. ^ Balz, Dan; Cillizza, Chris (July 30, 2007). "Clyburn: Positive Report by Petraeus Could Split House Democrats on War". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 12, 2009.
  33. ^ [1]
  34. ^ a b Black Leader in House Denounces Bill Clinton’s Remarks New York Times April 24, 2008
  35. ^ Bill Clinton Irritated by Race-Card Questions New York Times April 24, 2008
  36. ^ Panetta, Grace. "WHIP COUNT: Here's which members of the House voted for and against impeaching Trump". Business Insider. Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  37. ^ Clare Foran; Haley Byrd; Manu Raju. "Pelosi announces House committee on coronavirus crisis to exercise oversight of pandemic response". CNN. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  38. ^ "Membership". Congressional Black Caucus. Retrieved March 7, 2018.
  39. ^ "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on August 1, 2018. Retrieved August 1, 2018.
  40. ^ "Membership". Congressional Arts Caucus. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved March 21, 2018.
  41. ^ "Final vote results for roll call 7". January 6, 2005. Retrieved May 12, 2009.
  42. ^ Steady Stream of superdelegates pushed Obama over top CNN June 3, 2008.
  43. ^ Wilgoren, Debbi (June 3, 2008). "Clyburn Endorses Obama". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 31, 2013.
  44. ^ "South Carolina Rep. Jim Clyburn endorses Hillary Clinton". USA TODAY. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  45. ^ Davis, Susan (June 14, 2019). "Why 2020 Democrats Are Lining Up For Clyburn's 'World Famous' Fish Fry". NPR. Archived from the original on July 26, 2019.
  46. ^ Martin, Jonathan (June 21, 2019). "Hoping to Woo Black Voters, Democratic Candidates Gather at James Clyburn's Fish Fry". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved July 26, 2019.
  47. ^ "Clyburn endorsement carries considerable weight in SC: exit poll". MSNBC. February 29, 2020. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  48. ^ Strauss, Daniel (March 4, 2020). "'A chain reaction': how one endorsement set Joe Biden's surge in motion". The Guardian. Retrieved April 2, 2020.
  49. ^ "Jim Clyburn changed everything for Joe Biden's campaign. He's been a political force for a long time". The Washington Post. 2020.
  50. ^ "House votes to rebuke UN on Israeli settlement resolution". The Hill. January 5, 2017.
  51. ^ "AAI Thanks 80 Representatives For Standing Against Illegal Israeli Settlements". Arab American Institute.
  52. ^ Bresnahan, John (September 19, 2019). "House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn's wife dies at 80". Politico. Retrieved September 19, 2019.
  53. ^ Schatz, Amy (April 29, 2009). "Mignon Clyburn Nominated to FCC". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved August 27, 2009.

Further reading

External links

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Robin Tallon
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from South Carolina's 6th congressional district

Preceded by
Maxine Waters
Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus
Succeeded by
Eddie Bernice Johnson
Preceded by
Roy Blunt
House Majority Whip
Succeeded by
Kevin McCarthy
Preceded by
Steve Scalise
House Majority Whip
Party political offices
Preceded by
Bob Menendez
Vice Chair of the House Democratic Conference
Succeeded by
John B. Larson
Chair of the House Democratic Conference
Succeeded by
Rahm Emanuel
Preceded by
Chris Van Hollen
as House Democratic Assistant to the Leader
House Assistant Democratic Leader
Succeeded by
Ben Ray Luján
as Assistant Speaker of the House of Representatives
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Ken Calvert
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Anna Eshoo
This page was last edited on 1 August 2020, at 14:46
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