State Politics

South Carolinians, 2020 hopefuls pay tribute to Emily Clyburn

South Carolinians and U.S. politicians took a moment Thursday to remember the life of Dr. Emily Clyburn, the wife of U.S. House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn.

Emily — known as Ms. Emily to many — died Thursday morning at the age of 80. Following is a sampling of tributes to her life and legacy:

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‘A thoughtful, compassionate leader’

“Columbia & America has suffered a great loss with the passing of Mrs. Clyburn — a thoughtful, compassionate leader who was the perfect partner, wife, mother & grandmother. We will miss her dearly.” — Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin

‘We are forever grateful for her generosity’

“Emily Clyburn was a wonderful and loyal friend to our university and role model for many. The wife of Congressman Jim Clyburn, she was also an alumna of @UofSC, activist and librarian. We are forever grateful for her generosity and years of service to the state of SC and #UofSC.” — University of South Carolina President Bob Caslen

‘A champion for equality, opportunity, and education’

“Amanda and I are heartbroken by Ms. Emily’s passing. Our prayers are with @WhipClyburn + his family. She was a force of nature in our state — a champion for equality, opportunity, and education — who never stopped striving to make SC better. This is a tremendous loss for us all.” — U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-Charleston

‘Lived a consequential life changing South Carolina’

“She was one of the most kind and dynamic people I had ever met and lived a consequential life changing South Carolina and the United States for the better. My prayers go out to her husband of fifty-eight years, Congressman Jim Clyburn, and the entire Clyburn family who have suffered a mighty blow. I hope there is comfort in knowing that people throughout South Carolina and the United States share in your grief and greatly admire the many contributions made by Mrs. Clyburn. It was a great and well-lived life that should be an example to all.” — U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-Seneca

‘Like a mom to me’

“Tears are flowing. Today we lost an angel — Dr. Emily England Clyburn, the wife of @WhipClyburn. Ms. Emily was like a mom to me & the rock of the Clyburn family. She had a heart of gold & a spine of steel. I’ll miss you Ms. Emily, we all will! Rest well.” Jaime Harrison, former chairman of the S.C. Democratic Party, running for U.S. Senate

‘A legacy of love, joy, and strength’

“Peggy and I are saddened by the passing of Ms. Emily, but are heartened that she has left a legacy of love, joy, and strength with the Clyburn family.” — S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster

‘Understood the power of learning’

“Emily Clyburn was a champion of equality and opportunity who made a difference for countless young people in her beloved South Carolina. As a librarian, she intimately understood the power of learning to transform lives, and dedicated decades to ensuring that every child, servicemember, veteran and worker could access a good education that would allow him or her to climb the ladders of opportunity in America. Her extraordinary leadership, together with Jim, to increase learning opportunities at their beloved alma mater South Carolina State will stand always as an enduring tribute to her beautiful life and legacy.” — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California

A true civil rights hero’

“Rest in Power, Miss Emily. A true civil rights hero and icon. Like Modjeska, Septima, and Coretta she changed the course of history in her own right.” Bakari Sellers, former S.C. State House representative and CNN contributor

“Dr. Emily England Clyburn was a remarkable woman, wife, mother, and grandmother, this is a tremendous loss.” — U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson, R-Springdale

‘A strong courageous woman’

“Mrs. Emily was a strong courageous woman and will be missed. Her commitment to education and willingness to help others has made South Carolina a better place.” — S.C. Chamber of Commerce

Presidential hopefuls:

‘Always a force’

“(S)he was always a force, pushing not only her husband, but all of us who knew her well, to live up to our better angels. ... Every life that Ms. Emily touched — whether the students at the schools where she worked, the young people she helped send to college, or any of the elected officials who passed through Jim Clyburn’s World Famous Fish Fry — was enriched by her guidance and unfailing love.” — Former Vice President Joe Biden

‘A servant’s heart’

“Ms. Emily was a force and a shining example of a servant’s heart—today is a sad day for South Carolina and all who were touched by her.” — U.S. Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey

‘Future generations will benefit’

“Future generations will benefit from Emily’s fierce commitment to public education, her love for South Carolina, and a lifetime of activism that began alongside her husband Jim in an Orangeburg courthouse in 1960.” — Mayor Pete Buttigieg, of South Bend, Indiana

‘A pillar of the community’

“Dr. Emily Clyburn was a pillar of the community. She will always be remembered as a fighter for justice and for her steadfast commitment to education and our next generation of leaders.” — U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris of California

‘An activist and a librarian’

“My heart goes out to @WhipClyburn and his family after the loss of his wife, Emily. An activist and librarian who raised tens of thousands of dollars to help students attend college, she was a fixture in her community, and she will be deeply missed.” — U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts

Other tributes:

“My heart goes out to @WhipClyburn on the loss of his dear wife Emily. I am keeping the Clyburn family in my thoughts and prayers.” — Clemson University President Jim Clements

“My prayers for Congressman Clyburn and his family on the loss of his wife, Emily. May God hold them close and comfort them.” — S.C. Rep. Lin Bennett, R-Charleston

“Heartbreaking news this morning. Praying for @WhipClyburn & the entire family during this time.” — U.S. Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-Anderson

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the entire Clyburn family and Ms. Emily’s loved ones. May God grant her eternal rest and may perpetual light shine upon her.” — S.C. Lt. Gov. Pamela Evette

“Seeing a great man and faithful friend endure such a great loss makes me terribly sad. We’re thinking of you, Jim, and praying for your family.” — U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts

“Elaine and I are deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Emily Clyburn, the wife of SC Congressman Jim Clyburn. Please take a moment today to lift their family up in prayer.” — U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill

“Wrenzie and I are heartbroken to hear that Emily England Clyburn has passed away. We are praying for @WhipClyburn and the entire family during this time.” — U.S. Rep. Tom Rice, R-Myrtle Beach

“My prayers are with @WhipClyburn and his family today as he mourns the loss of his wife Dr. Emily England Clyburn.” — U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-North Charleston

“Today, my heart and prayers are with Rep. Jim Clyburn and his family. America and South Carolinians have lost a true warrior and activist. Dr. Emily Clyburn built a legacy of advocating for children and youth for many years. Driven by her passion for reading, she humbly dedicated her life’s work to literacy and education, while offering disadvantaged youth the opportunity to attend college through scholarships. Dr. Clyburn’s passion and advocacy remind me of my own mother, who is an inspiration to me.” Tom Steyer, Democratic presidential candidate

“So sad to hear of the passing of Congressman James Clyburn’s beloved wife, Emily. Sandy and I are keeping Jim and the whole Clyburn family in our prayers at this difficult time.” — Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg

“I want to express my condolences to Congressman @WhipClyburn and his family with the passing of Dr. Emily Clyburn. Our prayers are with all of you during this difficult time.” — U.S. Rep. William Timmons, R-Greenville

“My thoughts and prayers go out to @WhipClyburn and the entire Clyburn family. Blanche and I send our most heartfelt condolences for your loss.” Hugh Weathers, S.C. commissioner of agriculture

“I would like to extend my deepest sympathies to @WhipClyburn and his family. Our thoughts and prayers will be with them as they go to this very difficult time.” — S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson

Our deepest condolences from the @SCGOP. @WhipClyburn and his family will be in all of our prayers.” — S.C. Republican Party

“We are deeply saddened to hear about the passing of Emily Clyburn. Emily was truly a gift to our state and affected so many throughout her lifetime. Our hearts are with @WhipClyburn, her family, and all those who knew and loved her.” — S.C. House Democrats

Editor’s Note: Tributes were pulled from emailed statements and statements on Twitter and edited for brevity.

Maayan Schechter (My-yahn Schek-ter) covers the S.C. State House and politics for The State. She grew up in Atlanta, Ga. and graduated from the University of North Carolina-Asheville. She has previously worked at the Aiken Standard and the Greenville News.
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