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The Honorable Eva M. Clayton

U.S. congresswoman Eva M. Clayton was born in Savannah, Georgia on September 16, 1934. In 1955, Clayton received her B.S. degree in biology from Johnson C. Smith University. She then obtained her M.S. degree in biology and general science from North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina in 1962. With the encouragement of civil rights activist and attorney Vernon Jordan, Clayton sought election to Congress in a north-central North Carolina district. Despite a losing bid, Clayton’s initial run generated black voter registration. In the early 1970s, she worked for several public and private ventures, including the North Carolina Health Manpower Development Program at the University of North Carolina. In 1974, she cofounded and served as the executive director of Soul City Foundation, a housing organization that renovated dilapidated buildings for use as homeless shelters and daycare centers. Clayton worked on the successful gubernatorial campaign of Jim Hunt, who later appointed Clayton the assistant secretary of the North Carolina department of natural resources and community development. Clayton served in that capacity from 1977 until 1981. In 1982 she won election to the Warren County Board of Commissioners, which she chaired until 1990.

When Representative Walter Jones, Sr. announced his retirement in 1992, Clayton entered the Democratic primary to fill his seat. She eventually won the special election to fill the last two months of Jones’s unexpired term in the 102nd Congress (1991–1993) and defeated Republican Ted Tyler for a full term in the 103rd Congress (1993–1995). Clayton became the first black woman elected to U.S. Congress in North Carolina. In her subsequent four bids for re-election, she won comfortably, with 60 percent or more of the vote. Clayton served with distinction for ten years as the U.S. Representative of North Carolina’s 1st Congressional District. While in Congress, she served on Agriculture and Budget Committees and as ranking member of the Agriculture Department’s Operations Oversight, Nutrition and Forestry Subcommittees. Clayton is the past chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. In 2003, her name was put forth as a possible Democratic vice-presidential candidate. Clayton completed a three year-assignment with the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Rome, Italy in 2006 as Assistant Director-General and Special Adviser to the Director-General. In this post, Clayton helped to establish national alliances and partnerships in over 24 countries to fight hunger and poverty including the United States of America. She currently serves as the chairperson of Preserve Community Pharmacy Access NOW (PCPAN), a project of the Pharmacy Choice and Access Now (PCAN) coalition, which fights on behalf of patients to preserve access to quality and affordable health care and pharmacy services.

Clayton is the mother of four adult children, Joanne, Theaoseus, Jr., Martin and Reuben. She is married to Attorney Theaoseus T. Clayton, Sr. and they are proud grandparents of six grandchildren.

Eva M. Clayton was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on February 22, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.059

Sex

Female

Interview Date

2/22/2012

Last Name

Clayton

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Occupation
Schools

North Carolina Central University

Johnson C. Smith University

Ursula Collins Elementary School

Lucy C. Laney High School

North Carolina Central University School of Law

University of North Carolina School of Law, Chapel Hill

First Name

Eva

Birth City, State, Country

Savannah

HM ID

CLA18

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Mountains, Beaches

Favorite Quote

That Too Shall Come To Pass. Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Birth Date

9/16/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Raleigh

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Corn, Cabbage, Okra, Tomato, Fried Chicken, Fish

Short Description

U.S. congresswoman The Honorable Eva M. Clayton (1934 - ) was the first black woman elected to U.S. Congress from North Carolina, serving with distinction for ten years as an advocate for programs for disadvantaged African Americans and rural and agricultural interests in her district.

Employment

Soul City Foundation

North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development

Warren County Board of Commissioners

United States Congress

UN Food and Agriculture Organization

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of the Honorable Eva M. Clayton's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her likeness to her parents

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her parents' community involvement

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls public school, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers the Steed Street School in Augusta, Georgia

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about her role models

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers her influential teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls matriculating at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers her influences at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her activities at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about her early awareness of politics

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her introduction to civil rights activism

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about her work with the American Friends Service Committee

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her graduation from Johnson C. Smith University

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers James Brown

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers moving to Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes the political leadership in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about the importance of black institutions

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls moving to Warrenton, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Eva M. remembers becoming a community organizer

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - The Honorable Eva M. recalls attending the University of North Carolina School of Law in Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - The Honorable Eva M. recalls her first campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - The Honorable Eva M. describes her economic development work in North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about Soul City, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers the Watergate scandal

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her role at the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and Community Development

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her commissionership of Warren County, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her decision to run for the U.S. House of Representatives

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers her first term in the U.S. Congress

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls the Republican Revolution of 1994

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about the U.S. Congress under President Barack Obama

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about her leadership in the U.S. Congress

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers the class action lawsuit of Pigford v. Glickman

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls the solidarity among black women in the U.S. Congress

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton talks about the impact of Hurricane Floyd

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers her decision not to seek reelection

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls her service at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton recalls projects from her terms in Congress

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes the Eva M. Clayton Fellows Program Act

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes her children

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Eva M. Clayton describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$7

DATitle
The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers her first term in the U.S. Congress
The Honorable Eva M. Clayton remembers her decision not to seek reelection
Transcript
Well, this must have been exciting, going to [U.S.] Congress?$$Oh, it was exciting.$$So--$$It was a brand new--as you say you live several lives. There was a--it was a brand new life, a brand new opening, brand new awareness. And, also a very new opportunity to serve, share, and, and to give back.$$Okay, so you come in with the Clinton [President William Jefferson "Bill" Clinton] administration, right?$$I did.$$Same time, so, so, just explain what was--how did you--well, what was your first day like in Congress?$$Well, I can't even remember, but exciting. So, you know, it was full of--well, the first day of my inauguration, you know, when everybody else came, was full of excitement and people giving briefings, and you getting to know new people. As I said, I met three of the people who had served as county commissioners so that started as a basis. There were a number of Afro Americans who were elected, more then than before so that was the highest number coming in at one time in 1993. Also significant, it was the largest number of women coming at one time to Congress in 1993. And, I think as a result of a combination of that, I was elected president of my class both with the women vote and I guess the black. I didn't go there to--in fact I didn't even know there was such a, an office as being president of the freshman class, but, anyhow, the freshman class was large freshman class. And, with a number of newcomers, and I was honored to serve as the president in--as co-president along with--now, Jim Clyburn [HistoryMaker James Clyburn] ran for it. I didn't, but both of us served as co- (unclear), we worked a compromised since I had the most votes, that we would serve as co-presidents of the freshman class. He's gone on now to be the whip, you know, Jim Clyburn is now the whip of the Democratic Party, Democratic congresspersons and is doing an exceedingly good job.$$That's true. Now, also, elected--was this Mel Watt's [HistoryMaker Melvin L. Watt] first term too?$$It was, two of us came from North Carolina.$$Mel Watt comes from Charlotte [North Carolina], right?$$Yeah, and he was very supportive of me and I supportive of him. We kind of were a tag team. I adopted him as my older, oldest son. You know, not that I'm that much older than he was. He, he's, he's doing a good job and we both came at the same time, both went through what we call redistricting here where our district (unclear) started off having about twenty-eight counties partial, you know, counties. He was gerrymandered obviously. And then they reduced it down to twenty-four, now it has twenty-two and, by the way, it's being redistricted again this year. It's going more urban now, it's moving more to Durham [North Carolina]. Before it came to Granville County [North Carolina] back to the coast and down. And the current congressman stops westward at Granville County and goes to (unclear). Now, he's losing the coastal counties and he's gaining 40 percent of his new congressional district will be in Durham, which would change the dynamics of the district. 'Cause, basically, when I went to Congress it was a rural area and I served on the agriculture committee [U.S. House Committee on Agriculture]. One, because we were a rural area and, of course, that served me well 'cause most of our people were in rural areas and we, we were able to do some things through agriculture.$$Okay, now, one of the things--now, this is the 103rd Congress?$$Um-hm.$$And, one of the things that you did was you voted against the North American Free Trade Agreement.$$I did.$$And, now, why did you vote against that? I know there were big demonstrations against it in Seattle [Washington] I think. Wasn't that in Seattle?$$Could've been. There were also demonstrations, smaller ones throughout, you know, the United States. Basically, I saw it as kind of a giveaway (unclear) the presidency away where it was, and, also the unions and the workers here were being put at a disadvantage I thought. And, the, and working with them I, I thought we should find ways of not outsourcing the jobs. And that's the real reason I voted for, 'cause I saw it as losing jobs here in the United States.$$Okay, did it adversely affect North Carolina?$$Oh, I thought it did. I mean, I saw there were a number of textile industries, a number of the manufacturer in furniture, others now find its way into foreign countries that could be produced there far less expensive. The workers cost less and they can ship it here. So, if you look through rural eastern North Carolina, you will find cotton mills, you will find textile industries no longer there because these jobs are now somewhere else.$$Okay, okay. Now, you're a, you're a member of the House agricultural committee like I said before and you were a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, right?$$I was, right.$$Now, what was the condition of Congressional Black Caucus when you arrived in Congress?$$Well, it became very strong because you had so many new ones come on at that time as, as one. And, the--I think they were not only a force but they also expanded their power in terms of exerting it. Obviously, it worked within the Democratic framework and to the extent that they were, you know, influencing change, they're more of the progressive arm of the Democratic Party, so I think that made a big, big difference in terms of the number of the bills they had.$Two-thousand one, now this is, I guess this is after the, a year after I guess the election of George Bush as, George W. Bush as president [President George Walker Bush], you declined to seek re-nomination for a sixth term.$$Um-hm.$$So, what, what was the--what went into your thinking about--$$In 2002 when I declined?$$Um-hm.$$Well, when I ran for congressman initially, I think I said publicly and privately that I did not run to serve a life term. I was gonna probably serve eight or ten years. Well, eight years came--oh, I think I might have paraphrased said I was gonna serve eight or ten years or as long as I was making a contribution and and enjoying it. Well, 2002 came I was still enjoying it and I was still making a contribution. But, if I was gonna kind of keep my word to myself and publicly, I thought it would be a--ten year made a good period of time that I would just step away and see what else the good Lord had for me to do.$$Now, this attitude is different from the attitude of a lot of people.$$Oh, sure.$$And, I guess (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Well, I'm Eva Clayton [HistoryMaker Eva M. Clayton]. I'm not everybody else.$$That's right, yes ma'am, but you know, you look at African countries, the presidents are elected and they stay until there is a coup d'etat, you know--$$That is so true.$$--so many times, you know, not everybody, Nyerere [Julius Kambarage Nyerere] stepped away, you know, other people have stepped away but, but--$$It's hard, you know, I empathize that it's, it's--it wasn't easy and it would be harder for me now to step away if I'd been there now eighteen years. I think that's what it would have been, eighteen. It's harder at eighteen years or twenty years than it is ten, you know, so I, I understand when people stay there longer. You, you see so much happening and you are engaged in and then you wanna, you wanna keep serving. But I do think there is something both for the individual and for the office. Both for me as the individual I think I've grown, having stepped away I miss it sometime but not much. And I, and I--it was a wonderful experience. I made a--and I made a significant contribution, you know. History would bear that out, but, and, also it was--it helped me. I grew in many ways. But, taking on a different challenge, I also found that I've had opportunities to new growth in a much broader way, honestly, than I could have done in [U.S.] Congress. Or, or put it another way because I had the experience of being a congressperson, I now had other opportunities to grow in a different way and, and to make a contribution. And, also for my district [1st Congressional District] I think people say they you know miss me and I believe they are sincere but they also have been benefitted by having people to follow me, that we do have other good people. And part of democracy is not that we just have one person who can serve but we have several people who are good. That doesn't diminish my value because you now have value, you know, and, and what we need to do is create a variety of places to serve, a variety of platforms to make a contribution, not just the elected positions, if that makes any sense, you know. At least it makes sense to me, may not make sense to anybody else.$$Okay, it makes sense to me.$$And especially someone who's had many lives, right? Like you have, I got you.$$All right, so, now, so, what did you do after not--well who took your place first of all? Who took your place in--$$Frank Ballance, oh yes (simultaneous).$$--(simultaneous) did, did you endorse them?$$Oh yes.$$Okay.$$I sure did.$$All right.$$I sure did.