CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Hundreds of people paid their final respects to Dr. Emily England Clyburn, a longtime activist and the wife of House Majority Whip Rep. James E. Clyburn.
Her funeral service began at 11 a.m. Monday at Morris Brown AME Church on Morris Street in downtown Charleston. She passed away Thursday morning at the age of 80.
Her husband of almost 60 years remembered one of her final requests.
“She said, ‘We need to talk, because I’m dying. And I have not had time to say goodbye to my people,'” Clyburn said. “As she left us, she said to me, ‘I love my husband. I love my children. I love my family.'"
He also remembered one of their final moments together.
“She started signing a hymn," Clyburn said. “Emily and I shared 60 years together. 58 as husband and wife. Never, ever heard Emily, not even a tenth, sing a song.”
The crowd roared in laughter.
Dr. Clyburn, a native of Moncks Corner, met her future husband in jail after a civil rights protest at South Carolina State University. Their passion for change kept them together for 58 years. She’s remembered as being a gentle woman and advocate for education, those who love her say her legacy will last forever.
“I think about the love, the generosity, and all that Emily was," college classmate Elanor Sims Bowden said during the service.
She was a librarian, activist, philanthropist, and trailblazer in her own right, Clyburn earned her masters in Librarianship from Atlanta University and the University of South Carolina.
Throughout her life, she fought for civil rights and education. She was a lifetime member of the NAACP and active at Morris Brown AME Church in Charleston.
Among the dignitaries who attended the service were former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Tim Scott, Rep. Joe Cunningham, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg and former Charleston Mayor Joe Riley.
McMaster ordered flags in South Carolina flown at half-staff in Clyburn’s honor.
Her husband represents the South Carolina sixth district in the House, which includes most of North Charleston. He was elected to the seat in 1992 and has held it ever since. Officials like Nancy Pelosi and South Carolina Gov. McMaster attended a celebration of life ceremony for Clyburn in Columbia on Sunday.
House votes have been canceled for Monday so that other members of Congress can attend the funeral.
Family members request that in lieu of flowers, people contribute to the Emily England Clyburn Honors College Endowment at SCSU and/or the Emily E. Clyburn Huddle Room at the Cathy Novinger Girl Scout Leadership Center in Columbia.