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Rep. John Lewis on Passing of Dr. Emily Clyburn

September 20, 2019
Press Release

It is with great sadness that I learned about the passing of Dr. Emily Clyburn, the beloved and devoted wife of the Majority Whip, Rep. James Clyburn.  Emily was serious, she was smart, and an astute observer of national politics.  She was a trusted right-hand to her husband, a life partner who did not fail to offer him her advice, intellect, vision, and determination.  She was a key force who helped support and guide her husband’s climb to the ranks of power in the Democratic caucus. 

She was also deeply compassionate, in her own right, and very concerned about helping those who were most vulnerable in our society.  Even though her life journey raised her from hard-working beginnings, she never forgot her parents’ struggle to live with dignity and respect.  She used her influence as a first lady of South Carolina to reach out to the needy and to left out and the left behind.  For this work, she was revered and loved by the people of the state.

Emily was a dear friend to my late wife, Lillian, because they were both librarians.  They both loved issues, and they loved to read, learn and share their thoughts.  They were both extremely well informed and knowledgeable, which made them both invaluable partners.  They became allies within the ranks of congressional wives, offering constructive, meaningful initiatives for the wives to pursue.

Having lost my own wife not long ago, my heart goes out to my friend and colleague, Jim Clyburn.  I know that Emily is irreplaceable.  There will never be another like her.  A partner of 58 years leaves an enduring and unforgettable impact on a person’s life.  I am thankful for the ways Dr. Emily Clyburn supported a leader of our nation and raised a family of women who have also made important contributions to our society.  My friend, Jim Clyburn, his daughters, Mignon, Jennifer and Angela, and their children will be constantly in my thoughts and prayers.  Dr. Emily Clyburn will be deeply missed.