After former Chairman Julius Genachowski left the FCC, Clyburn compared her position as acting chairwoman to that of a relay runner, carrying the baton through the middle leg of a race. But that doesn't mean Clyburn is without her own goals. One of her top priorities is to put a cap on charges for inmate calls, which she says can cost as much as $17 for just 15 minutes, a barrier for attorneys and family members. Clyburn helped solve that problem in South Carolina as a member of the state's Public Service Commission. Asked whether her father, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., inspired her, she jokes: "Somewhat." But the 51-year-old also cites her grandparents as inspiration. Even though they were not financially well-off, they frequently slipped a few dollars to friends in need. That, she says, reinforced her desire to go into public service. Clyburn hails from Charleston, S.C., "a city which I love," she says. After graduating from the University of South Carolina, she became the publisher of the Coastal Times, a weekly aimed at the African-American community. In 2009, President Obama nominated her to the FCC. Clyburn gets emotional talking about joining the commission in time for her mentor Marjorie Amos-Frazier to see her assume the post. Amos-Frazier, who died in 2010, was the first African-American to serve on the South Carolina Public Service Commission and talked Clyburn into joining her. Though Amos-Frazier barely finished high school, Clyburn remembers people from all over the community asking her for advice. Plus, Clyburn says, she made "the best iced tea ever."
This article is from the archive of our partner National Journal.