James E. (Jim) Clyburn has spent his entire life living in the current Sixth Congressional District. He was born and raised in Sumter, the eldest son of a fundamentalist minister and a cosmetologist. He graduated from South Carolina State University in Orangeburg with a bachelor’s degree in history.
His first job was teaching social studies at C.A. Brown High School in Charleston. While still in Charleston, he worked as an employment counselor, a director of youth programs and led the South Carolina Farm Workers Commission.
After losing a close election to become one of the first African Americans in the South Carolina House of Representative, Jim caught the eye of Governor John West, who brought him to Columbia to serve as the first minority advisor to a South Carolina governor. Under Governor West, he demonstrated his strong leadership skills which led to his appointment as South Carolina Human Affairs Commissioner, a position he retired from after nearly 18 years of service to run for Congress.
Jim ran for the Sixth Congressional seat in 1992 as one of five African American candidates following the creation of the new black majority district during reapportionment. His personal relationship with so many people throughout the district and his proven leadership ability led him to win the Democratic primary with 55% percent of the vote, eliminating the need for an expected run-off. He went on to win the general election, and to become South Carolina’s first African American to serve in Congress in nearly 100 years.
While in Congress, Jim has progressively climbed the leadership ladder. He was elected co-President of his Freshman class, and he was unanimously elected Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus in 1999. In 2002, he won an election among three House members to serve as Vice Chair of the House Democratic Caucus. He rose to the position of Caucus Chair in January 2006, and in 2007, he became the first South Carolinian to serve as House Majority Whip. With Democrats now in the minority in the House, Jim serves in the number three position for his party – Assistant Democratic Leader. Being in the Leadership has enabled him to have a seat at the table when decisions are being made in Washington and make sure the needs of South Carolinians are considered.