Eva Clayton: Waking up the US House of Representatives

Eva Clayton, Congresswoman. A life of service

Her early plans were to become a doctor to help people in the underdeveloped parts of the world but she chose to make a difference in the lives of ordinary Americans and we are glad she did! 

“The issue of equity in jobs and fairness of opportunities is paramount,”

Eva Clayton devoted her political career to helping young people get training for jobs.  She was the first African-American woman to represent North Carolina in Congress, From her post on the House Agriculture Committee, Clayton advanced the interests of her rural district in the northeastern part of her state and called attention to the economic inequalities that affected African Americans nationally.

From science to civil rights empowerment. She pursued the sciences. It was her first love. She grew up in North Carolina and received a bachelor of science degree in biology from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1955. In 1962, she earned an M.S. in biology and general science from North Carolina Central University in Durham.  The plan was to get into medical school and become a doctor. But the 1960s was a time of great awakening in the United States. This awakening is not unlike the awakening of today. Eva saw there was work to be done here in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum. She didn’t jump right into politics for herself but used her many skills to campaign for others.  She helped elect Jim Hunt as governor of North Carolina who later appointed her as Assistant Secretary of NC Department of Community Development. She co-founded and served as the executive director of Soul City Foundation, a housing organization that renovated and turned run-down buildings into housing for the homeless. She also raised funds to build new schools in her state.

As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, she organized a campaign to help 1 million African Americans buy homes by 2005. In 1996 she also played a key part in fighting GOP efforts to cut summer job programs for young people. Declaring that she intended “to wake up” the House, Clayton said that the programs helped more than 615,000 youths in 650 cities and towns: “This is the first opportunity many of these young people have to get a job.”

She would advise us to find our mission in life and to never give up!



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