In Savannah, Georgia on September 16, 1934 Mrs. Eva Clayton (McPherson) was born. She spent her entire childhood in North Carolina and went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, NC. She then decided to go back to school and obtain her master’s degree in biology and general science from NC Central University in hopes of becoming a doctor, but different plans were written for her.
In the prime of the civil rights movement Mrs. Clayton felt it was her duty to become active and engage in many local political and civil affairs. She was so passionate that she even picketed her own husband Theaoseus Clayton’s (who was a prominent lawyer) ownership of a building that housed a racist segregated restaurant.
Throughout her endeavors she caught the attention of many including Vernon Jordan, a civil rights activist who convinced her to run for congress in the First Congressional district in North Carolina. Her first campaign may not have been successful in the polls, earning only 31% of the vote but it was very successful in the community. Mrs. Clayton had sparked black voter registration and political interest.
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, Mrs. Clayton co-founded 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.
Mrs. 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, Mrs. Clayton entered the Democratic primary to fill his seat. She won a tight race between his son, Walter, Jr., in a 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).
Rep. Clayton became the first black woman elected to U.S. Congress in North Carolina since 1898. 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.
Clayton had an abundance of achievements while in office but the three nearest to her were being able to provide legal immigrants with food stamps, help black farmers receive the proper compensation, and helping flood victims in Hurricane Floyd as well as getting the President involved in the rebuilding process.
Clayton retired in January 2003 and returned to North Carolina. She is currently giving speeches by invitation, working on getting the youth to engage in their local political affairs, and of course, still speaking out on issues she’s passionate about through different editorials.
She is also raising awareness of the issue of schools in rural counties in NC. She believes quality education is mandatory but not apparent due to lack of resources. She is also working closely with the community with efforts towards ending homelessness.
Although Mrs.Clayton has achieved so much in her lifetime, she is not done yet. She resides in Littleton, NC and works very closely with her four children Theaoseus Jr., Martin, Reuben, and Joanne. She has instilled her qualities in them so that her legacy may live on forever.
Mrs. Clayton was named the Spectacular Magazine Woman of the Year – Lifetime Achievement in 2016.
In May 2018 Spectacular Magazine will recognize the brightest innovators and game-changers between the ages of 18-35 who are transforming the world in their own way with the inaugural Spectacular Magazine Millennial of the Year Awards in the categories of Arts, Activism, Athletics, Beauty, Community Service, Education, Entrepreneurship, Health & Fitness, Public Figure & Technology.