Our Man of the Year is known for his love of people, his caring personality, and his heartfelt gratitude for the opportunities life has given him and his family.
He is a man of strong faith and his faith informs his everyday life. Through his varied and interesting career, he has touched the lives of people young and old.
Fortunately for him, and for our community, all his formal job roles have placed him in the position to help people who might just need a little encouragement along the way.
Perhaps he sees his own life experiences and challenges in those who need a helping hand. He did not always get what he pursued. There were a couple of opportunities here and there for which he was overlooked, but his reaction to those setbacks should be a lesson to all of us in how to overcome adversity and fight on. Undoubtedly, his involvement in competitive sports prepared him for dealing with the disappointments life can bring.
As some of those doors slammed shut, other doors cracked open for him. Today, he enjoys cracking open doors for others.
Sports not only prepared him for life, it opened those doors. There is no question he would have played major college football when he was young, but the times didn’t allow it in that era. He played college football for an HBCU, an historically black college and university, as a receiver.
The impact of sports on his life continued as he accepted the offer to become the head football coach at Schofield High School right out of college. It was the all-black high school in Aiken during segregation. He coached hundreds of young kids while at Schofield - most of whom recall the valuable lessons, discipline and hope that the young head coach provided them. The schools in Aiken County were integrated in the 1970s, and while he was passed over for the position as head coach, he made the best of the situation. His student-athletes loved and respected him.
He decided to run for Aiken City Council in 1973. His football players from Aiken High School met on Saturdays at Cumberland AME church and went from door to door in their respective neighborhoods asking people to vote for their coach. He was the leading vote-getter on the ticket and made history by becoming the first African-American elected to Aiken City Council.
In 1975, he was promoted into administration becoming the Principal of Aiken Elementary which was located at the current site of the Aiken library. In 1981, he was elected to Aiken County Council. In 1983, he was promoted to principal of Aiken High School and served there until 1986 when he got a call from the governor of South Carolina.
Governor Riley appointed him to be an administrative law judge with the Workers Compensation Commission making him the first, but not the last person in his family to become a judge. He served there until 1994 when he was elected to the South Carolina House of Representatives. He currently serves on the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He also serves on the board of directors of Security Federal Bank.
His life’s work is a testament to his love of helping others. The Clyburn Center for Primary Care was named in his honor in 2014 in recognition of his commitment to providing access to health care to everyone regardless of ability to pay.
He was not born in Aiken, but you wouldn’t know it. Aiken is home to him and his wife, Beverly, and they would have it no other way. They raised their three children, William, Tony and Courtney, here in Aiken. All are law school graduates.
It would be safe to say that of all the positions he has held in his life the one in which he is most proud is the one that paid him the least and required the most hours - coaching and teaching young people.
Tonight, the Man of the Year is receiving just a little return for the years of his commitment to his family, his students, his athletes, his constituents and most importantly, his faith.
The Man of the Year is Representative Bill Clyburn.
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