[Note to readers: This earlier version of Mr. Shaw's obituary ran online only.]
Former U.S. Rep. and Fort Lauderdale Mayor E. Clay Shaw Jr., an institution in South Florida politics, has died at age 74.
Mr. Shaw passed away on Tuesday at Holy Cross Hospital surrounded by family, following a recurrence of lung cancer.
Mr. Shaw represented Broward County, and part of Palm Beach County, for 26 years. He lived in Fort Lauderdale, where the 17th Street Causeway bridge over the Intracoastal Waterway bears his name.
Though his cancer had returned recently, and he was hospitalized about a week and a half ago, Mr. Shaw remained engaged in politics.
His former chief of staff, Eric Eikenberg, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, visited him at the hospital last Friday. "We talked Syria, we tal
ked the pending government shutdown. He was into all the latest events,'' said Eikenberg, who started working with the congressman as an intern, went on to run one of his congressional campaigns and became his chief of staff. "He had FOX News on.''
Eikenberg said Mr. Shaw was a "workhorse,'' not a "show horse,'' who accomplished much and whose career was clean from scandal.
"He did it the right way,'' Eikenberg said.
He was so well known and so widely regarded as a gentleman from a different era that even Ron Klein, the Democratic challenger who won the 2006 election and retired the congressman from politics, referred to him as “Mr. Shaw.”
Though he became a resident of Fort Lauderdale, Mr. Shaw was born in Miami in 1939 and retained a previous era’s pronunciation of the Magic City, “My-am-uh.”
Former Republican Gov. Jeb Bush said Mr. Shaw was a friend he worked closely with on Everglades restoration. Like others, he remembered Mr. Shaw as a “gentleman.’’
“Politics doesn’t have to be about elbows and knees and mean spiritedness,’’ Bush said. “Clay Shaw didn’t have a mean bone in his body. .... He and his family are part of South Florida history and he’s just an extraordinary guy.''
Mr. Shaw supported Bush over Reagan for the Republican nomination, siding with the man who ultimately prevailed and became president. A long friendship ensued.
“Some people you just click with,” Mr. Shaw said. When Bush was president, Mr. Shaw and his wife, Emilie, sometimes joined George and Barbara Bush in the private residential quarters at the White House for takeout Chinese food. Other times it was movies. And Emilie Shaw occasionally played tennis at the White House with Barbara Bush.
Hanging on the wall of the Shaws’ home in Fort Lauderdale is a picture Mr. Shaw took of Bush in the White House – showing the president holding a camera that he was using to take a picture of Clay and Emilie Shaw sitting on the bed in the Lincoln bedroom.
Mr. Shaw was a veteran known mostly for constituent service before he became a force on the House Ways and Means Committee and grabbed national attention in 1996 by authoring a welfare bill that reversed 60 years of government policies. The bill, which drew widespread praise but plenty of controversy, imposed more stringent work requirements for many recipients while offering help with child care and job training.
Last month, he reflected on his relationships with his Congressional colleagues.