South Carolina mourns passing of Emily England Clyburn; librarian, activist and philanthropist

Dr. Emily England Clyburn speaks during a video produced by the Girl Scouts of America in 2017.

Dr. Emily England Clyburn passed away Sept. 19 in Columbia. Born in the Whitesville section of Berkeley County near Moncks Corner.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Peter and Mattie England, and siblings Arthur England and Mattie Mae England Wadley.

Known affectionately as Ms. Emily by many and Dr. Em by some, she graduated from Berkeley Training High School in Moncks Corner and earned a bachelor’s degree in Library Science from South Carolina State College (SCSU) in 1961.

She furthered her studies at Atlanta University and the University of South Carolina, where in 1977 she received a Master in Librarianship. SCSU awarded her an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at its 2010 Spring Commencement.

Dr. Em was 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.

Ms. Emily was extraordinarily dedicated to her alma mater. She and her husband Congressman Jim Clyburn, also a member of SCSU Class of 1961, were married for 58 years after meeting in jail during one of his incarcerations for campus activism.

They have been steadfast supporters of South Carolina State. A significant financial contribution from the couple allowed SCSU to re-establish its Honors College.

Earlier this year, Jim and Em re-designated the $1.7 million in endowed funds they raised and contributed to SCSU over several decades to establish the Dr. Emily England Clyburn Honors College Scholarship Endowment.

A statement issued Thursday by James E. Clark, president of South Carolina State University, expressed the importance Clyburn had withing the education community.

"Emily England Clyburn made an indelible mark on everyone who came in contact with her," Clark stated. "She was a librarian who served diligently in the public education system of South Carolina. She was most passionate about educating young people, and through her collaborative work with her husband, she formed the Clyburn Research and Scholarship Foundation committed to educating young people and preparing them for a better life.

"She extended her passion for education to SC State and created the Emily England Clyburn Honors College Scholarship. The university and the State of South Carolina named the Dr. Emily England Clyburn Pedestrian Bridge, located adjacent to the Chestnut Street entrance of the university, in her honor. Countless students of this institution are successfully pursuing their dreams of attending college because of her generous contributions."

Dr. Em was featured in Notable African-American Women: In Their Own Voices, a documentary produced in 2007 by the I. DeQuincy Newman Institute for Peace and Social Justice at the University of South Carolina College of Social Work. She was a recipient of the Woman of Faith Award given by the Columbia Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, and received the Distinguished Service Award by several chapters of South Carolina State University National Alumni Association. She was also honored as a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of South Carolina – Mountains to Midlands.

Dr. Em was the naming sponsor of a cargo ship, the RO/RO Liberty Promise which she christened when it was launched at the Naval Weapon Station, Charleston, SC in 2015. In 2018 the pedestrian bridge which spans Chestnut Street (US Highway 21) at the SCSU campus was renamed the Dr. Emily England Clyburn Pedestrian Bridge, an effort spearheaded by South Carolina State Senator John Matthews.

Ms. Emily was a member of Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston, a life member of the NAACP, a life member of the SCSU National Alumni Association and an active, highly-regarded member of the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Association.

She is survived by her husband, Jim; three daughters: Mignon L. Clyburn, Jennifer Clyburn Reed (Walter) and Angela Clyburn Hannibal; four grandchildren: Walter A Clyburn Reed, Sydney Alexis Reed, Layla Joann Clyburn Hannibal, and Carter James Clyburn Hannibal. She leaves to mourn her loss a host of family members and friends.

A celebration of her life and legacy will be held at Brookland Baptist Church in West Columbia at 5:00 pm on Sunday, September 22. 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.