FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Clay Shaw, who spent 26 years in Washington battling over everything from free trade to Everglades restoration and welfare reform, has died following a lengthy battle against lung cancer.
Shaw’s family said in a statement that he died Tuesday at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale. He was 74.
The veteran member of Congress rode into office with President Ronald Reagan in 1980 and survived spirited challenges to his seat over three decades only to lose to a Democratic wave in 2006. He campaigned that year to keep his job months after he had a tumor removed from his lung.
“Clay cherished his time in the U.S. Congress representing the people of South Florida,” said his wife Emilie Shaw in a statement. “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.”
One of Shaw’s signature moments was his role in sponsoring and helping shepherd in 1996 a contentious bill backed by then-President Bill Clinton to reform the nation’s safety net known as welfare. Shaw’s political career was derailed a decade later by attacks by his Democratic opponent over Medicare, the federal health care program for the elderly.
“He spent a long career in Congress trying to accomplish, without partisanship or rancor, what was best for the people in his congressional district,” said former Republican U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, who once interned for Shaw.
During his lengthy career in Congress, Shaw also led an effort to eliminate social security earning penalties for working seniors and he also pushed through federal legislation to help restore the Everglades.
Shaw was born in Miami and earned degrees, including a law degree, from Stetson University while also earning a MBA from the University of Alabama. He was elected mayor of Fort Lauderdale in 1975.
He is survived by his wife Emilie, four children and 15 grandchildren. He will be buried in Cuba, Ala.