Emily England Clyburn, wife of House Majority Whip James E. Clyburn, D-S.C., died Thursday morning in Columbia, South Carolina at the age of 80. A cause of death has not been given.
The couple recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary. The two notably met while Clyburn was in jail “for campus activism,” according to a release. They both attended South Carolina State University.
Known as “Ms. Emily,” Clyburn was a former librarian and activist, life-time member of the NAACP and the Congressional Black Caucus Spouses Association.
She was featured in the documentary “Notable African-American Women: In Their Own Voices” and was the recipient of the Woman of Faith Award by the Columbia Chapter of the National Council of Negro Women, among other honors.
Members have been sharing condolences online. Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico, called her a “pillar of community” while Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., said she “embodied the definition of a ‘virtuous woman.’”
“Emily Clyburn was a champion of equality and opportunity who made a difference for countless young people in her beloved South Carolina,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said England Clyburn was “one of the most kind and dynamic people” he had ever met and referred to the Clyburn family’s loss as “a mighty blow.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., offered their condolences at a press availability and Scalise made a comment that suggests some sort of illness: “His wife Emily I know had been struggling for some time now.”
She leaves behind four grandchildren and three daughters, including Mignon Clyburn, a former FCC commissioner.
House votes have been canceled for Monday “due to funeral arrangements,” read a statement from House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer.
Lindsey McPherson contributed to this report.