Former U.S. Rep. E. Clay Shaw, Jr., died Tuesday night after a lengthy battle with lung cancer. He was 74.
Shaw, a Republican and former Fort Lauderdale mayor, served in Congress for 26 years. He is survived by his wife 53 years, Emilie, four children and 15 grandchildren.
“It is with heavy hearts and profound sadness that our family announces the passing of our loving husband, father, grandfather, congressman and mayor, E. Clay Shaw, Jr. Clay Shaw passed away on Tuesday, September 10th at Holy Cross Hospital surrounded by family and following a courageous battle against lung cancer,” said a statement released by Shaw’s family.
“Clay cherished his time in the U.S. Congress representing the people of South Florida. He was a devoted family man setting a fine example for our 15 grandchildren. They will always be proud of Clay’s love of country,” said Emilie Shaw.
Tweeted Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Miami late Tuesday: “Sad 2 hear that our pal, former Fl Cong E Clay Shaw, passed away 2night. Condolences 2 Emily. They were always 2gether.”
Eugene Clay Shaw, Jr., was born in Miami, Florida, on April 19, 1939. He graduated from Miami Edison Senior High School in 1957. He received his B.S. from Stetson University in 1961, an M.B.A., from the University of Alabama in 1963, and his J.D. from Stetson University College of Law in 1966.
In 1975, at the age of 36, Shaw became the mayor of Fort Lauderdale. In 1980, he won a seat as a freshman lawmaker in Congress representing the 22nd congressional district, which then included Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties. He would go on to win re-election 12 times over the following two decades until 2008 when Democrat Ron Klein beat him in a bitter campaign.
In the House, Shaw served on the Judiciary committee for eight years before moving to the powerful Ways and Means committee.
In 1994, when Republicans won control of the House from Democrats, Shaw became chairman of a subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee, a position that included authority over welfare issues. His 1993 bill — a proposal to end the federal welfare program and remove recipients after two years from the rolls and require them to work — became a major provision of the Contract with America and marked one of the most dramatic changes in American public policy. In 1996, the welfare reform bill was signed into law by then President Bill Clinton.
Following the 1998 election, Shaw took on another big issue — Social Security — after becoming chairman of the House Social Security subcommittee. Among the legislation he got approved was a bill repealing the earnings tax on Social Security recipients age 65-69. He later sought to give workers the option of devoting part of their earnings for personal retirement accounts beyond Social Security. Democrats pounced on the idea as a move to privatize the Social Security system.
In 2000, he barely edged state Rep. Elaine Bloom — winning by only a few hundred votes — in one of the most expensive House races in the country. Following the election, lawmakers the congressional district lines were redrawn with Miami-Dade removed.
Among other legislation championed by Shaw: the 1982 Missing and Exploited Children’s Act, the Holocaust Restoration Tax Fairness Act of 2002 and the Congo Basin Forest Partnership Act of 2004. He is survived by his wife of 53 years, Emilie; children Emilie “Mimi” Shaw Carter (Jim), Jennifer Shaw Wilder (Greg), E. Clay Shaw III (Heather) and John Charles “J.C.” Shaw (Angela) and 15 grandchildren.
He will be buried at a family graveside in Cuba, Alabama. A memorial service will take place in Ft. Lauderdale at a later date.