U.S. Majority Whip to speak at EMU's MLK Day President's Luncheon

by Ward Mullens, Published January 12, 2010

YPSILANTI —House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn (D – South Carolina) will give remarks at Eastern Michigan University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. President’s Luncheon Jan. 18.

Tickets are $19 for faculty and staff, $9 for students and are available by calling 734-487-2282. The event is at 11:45 a.m. in the Student Center Ballroom.

Clyburn has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1993 and became House Majority Whip in November 2006. He is the first South Carolinian and the second African American to ascend to the third-ranking position in the U.S. House of Representatives.

He was elected president of his NAACP youth chapter when he was 12 years old, participated in many marches and demonstrations, and was chosen as the star witness in a 1960 Orangeburg, S.C. civil disobedience case defended by civil rights activist and attorney Matthew Perry. That case developed from the arrest of 388 college students -- two of whom were Clyburn and his future wife, Emily England of Moncks Corner, South Carolina, whom he met during that incarceration. He was later jailed during a 1961 march on the South Carolina State Capitol in Columbia that resulted in the landmark breach of the peace case, Edwards v South Carolina.

In 1970, Clyburn became the first African American adviser to a South Carolina governor since post Reconstruction. After Clyburn served almost four years on his staff, Governor John West appointed Clyburn South Carolina Human Affairs Commissioner.

In 1992, Clyburn resigned that position to devote himself to the pursuit of his lifelong dream of serving in the United States Congress -- where no black South Carolinian had served since 1897. In a field of five Democratic primary candidates, Clyburn won with 56 percent of the vote, avoiding a run-off. He easily won the general election for South Carolina's Sixth Congressional District, and was sworn in as a member of the United States House of Representatives in January 1993.

Congressman Clyburn began his steady climb on Capitol Hill, winning election as co-president of his freshman class. Six years later, he was unanimously elected chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and to a seat on the Appropriations Committee. In 2002, he was elected in a three-way race to serve as vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, and in January 2006, his peers unanimously elevated him to chair of the caucus.

Ward Mullens

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