NBCSL Mourns the Passing of Dr. Emily Clyburn, civil rights activist and wife to House majority whip Jim Clyburn

September 20, 2019
U.S. Congressman James Clyburn and his wife, Emily, pose with his portrait at the Mary McLeod Bethune Learning Center and Art Gallery.

Dr. Emily England Clyburn, the wife of House Majority Whip and South Carolina Sixth District Representative James E. Clyburn, passed away Thursday, September 19, 2019 at the age of 80.

We extend our deepest sympathies to Congressman Clyburn and his family as they mourn the passing of his wife, says NBCSL President and South Carolina State Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter. Dr. Clyburn was a pillar in our state. Her advocacy and unwavering commitment to education and equality has made South Carolina a better place. She will truly be missed.

Known to many as “Ms. Emily or Dr. Em, she was an esteemed librarian and civil rights activist who played a key role in her husband’s political career. James E. Clyburn is currently the third-ranking Democrat in the US House of Representatives and the highest-ranking African American in Congress. The couple met in jail after being arrested for campus activism at South Carolina State University, where they were both students. They got married the next year in 1961, and just celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary this past June.

Dr. Clyburn had a long and distinguished career as a public school librarian in Columbia and Charleston before spending 29 years as a medical librarian at the Charleston Naval Base and Dorn VA Medical Center in Columbia. Along with her husband, she was very passionate about her alma mater, helping to raise millions of dollars in scholarship funds for students to attend college.

A celebration of Dr. Clyburn’s life and legacy will be held at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia on Sunday, September 22, 2019.
Her Homegoing Services will be at Morris Brown AMEC in Charleston, SC at 11:00 am on Monday, September 23. Her internment at Crescent Hill Memorial will be followed by a repast at Trinity Baptist Church in Columbia.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers, contributions be made to the Emily England Clyburn Honors College Endowment at South Carolina State University and the Emily E. Clyburn Huddle Room at the Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center in Columbia, SC.

For more information about Dr. Emily England Clyburn, please visit https://www.majoritywhip.gov/?press=south-carolina-is-mourning-the-passing-of-emily-england-clyburn