Eva Clayton was the first African American woman from North Carolina to be elected to the US House. She was also the first African American from North Carolina since 1901 to serve in the House.
Born in Georgia, Clayton grew up in North Carolina. She’s a graduate of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, and has an MS in Biology and General Science from North Carolina Central University in Durham. A civil rights activist in the 60s, her first bid for congress was in 1968, and was ultimately unsuccessful. Clayton went on to work for several public/private ventures, and started Soul City Foundation in 1974, a housing organization that renovated dilapidated buildings for use as homeless shelters and daycare centers. After helping Jim Hunt win the governor’s mansion, Hunt appointed her assistant secretary of the North Carolina department of natural resources and community development.
Clayton was elected to Congress in 1992. She eventually became the Ranking Democratic Member on the Agriculture Committee’s Operations, Oversight, Nutrition, and Forestry Subcommittee. She was a staunch defender of the rural and agricultural interests of her district. From her seat on the Agriculture Committee she supported extending tobacco subsidies to farmers, though many of her Democratic colleagues did not.
Throughout her career, Clayton advocated for programs to help economically disadvantaged African Americans. Clayton believed “job opportunities combined with a fair wage are key to strengthening families and communities and increasing our quality of life.” As chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Clayton organized a campaign to help 1 million African Americans buy homes by 2005.
In November 2001, Clayton declined to seek renomination to a sixth term in the House. She retired to her home in Littleton, NC. The Democratic Women of North Carolina salute Rep. Clayton for her service and dedication to our state and our country.