Actor, singer help Clyburn raise funds for SC State

Saturday, December 1, 2007

U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., was in Spartanburg Friday to get some help from his college friends to raise money for South Carolina State University.


Clyburn and his wife, Emily, held a holiday gala fundraiser at the Marriott at Renaissance Park. They have raised $1.7 million so far for an archives and history endowment.

The goal is to raise $5 million for the endowment to help provide scholarships, house historic documents and create other educational opportunities.

"Emily and I met at South Carolina State and fell in love with the school and each other," he said. "We have been married for 46 years."

Clyburn started working on the project several years ago, but wasn't spending much time on it. He said he got serious about it and asked a friend how to do it. A decision was made to hold large fundraisers every two years.

"The first fundraiser was held in Columbia two years ago," he said. "A couple of people got on me and said there are a lot of South Carolina State University graduates in the Spartanburg and Greenville areas. The next one will be in Charleston."

The endowment fund is the largest at the historically black university in Orangeburg. Clyburn hopes other alumni will establish bigger endowments to enhance the university.

"Education is a tool to level the playing field," said Lumus Byrd Jr., university trustee. "Jim and Emily recognize education is a great gift and an equalizer."

One of Clyburn's corporate sponsors is Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris International and Philip Morris USA. Some representatives from the company were in Spartanburg to give the couple a $50,000 donation.

Clyburn used his South Carolina connections to get Hill Harper, an actor on the television show "CSI New York," to serve as master of ceremonies. Harper's mother is from Seneca.

"Government funding is drying up," Harper said. "We need public-private partnerships and working together to provide more funding. If we don't, we will lose a generation."

Harper graduated magna cum laude from Brown University and is a graduate of Harvard Law School, where he was a classmate of presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama.

Entertainment was provided by Morris Robinson, a former Citadel football player turned opera singer. Robinson performs with the Metropolitan Opera.


Linda Conley | Spartanburg Herald Journal