CHARLESTON — U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn said Tuesday he is healthy and fit at 73, and plans to seek a 12th term in Washington next year.
“I just had my physical, my numbers are better than they have been and I can still play 36 holes of golf a day,” Clyburn said following a presentation at the Medical University of South Carolina on the impact of drug development and testing in South Carolina.
“I try to keep my blood pressure down. I try to keep my cholesterol count down,” he said, adding he takes cholesterol medication but, “other than that, I'm fine and I have every plan to run next year.”
Clyburn, first elected in the state's black-majority 6th District in Congress in 1992, will be 74 when the 2014 elections roll around. He was the first African American to serve in Congress from South Carolina since Reconstruction. He's also the No. 3 Democrat in the House of Representatives and the only Democrat in the S.C. congressional delegation.
Clyburn spoke with reporters after the presentation at an MUSC research building that bears his name. He then was returning to Washington to attend events Wednesday surrounding the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a Dream” speech.
“King's speech was all about the fierce urgency of now; whether or not the wealth of opportunities in this country in fact are bankrupt and whether or not people of color were in fact issued a bad check,” the lawmaker said.
Clyburn said that, a half century later, things seem to be slipping back.
“I'm conflicted. I've told everybody tomorrow is a commemoration, not a celebration,” said Clyburn, who organized civil rights marches and demonstrations and was arrested several times as a student leader at then-S.C. State College. He met his wife Emily in jail after one arrest.
“If you just think about what has happened in the North Carolina Legislature, what has happened in South Carolina's legislature, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, Georgia – we see retrogression all around us.”
In North Carolina, there have been weekly protests of the conservative Republican legislature's refusal to expand Medicaid, its cutting unemployment benefits and passing a more restrictive voter ID law.
Two years ago, South Carolina's legislature passed a voter ID law requiring voters to show government-issued photo identification at the polls, a law subsequently gutted by a court ruling. The Rev. Al Sharpton later called the law a modern-day barrier to keep black people from voting.
“Some of the rhetoric coming out of the South Carolina Legislature reminds me of what King did say in concluding his speech of Southern governors with words of interposition and nullification dripping from their lips,” Clyburn said. “We're hearing that again today.”