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social sciences

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Shaw, Clay (1913-1974)  
page: 1  2  

Exactly how Garrison originally intended to proceed against Shaw is still not clear, although he told reporters that he did not need to develop a case against the businessman because he expected Shaw to commit suicide before he could bring him to trial.

In the pre-Stonewall era, suicide was often the expected course for gay people, to avoid suffering the humiliation of being publicly identified as a degenerate. This was particularly true for prominent figures like Clay Shaw.

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Months passed, however, and Shaw had not obliged Garrison by killing himself. Garrison then was forced to bring Shaw to trial.

The trial finally began in early 1969. Garrison produced witnesses who swore that they saw Shaw plotting to kill the President. As the trial progressed, however, it became clear these witnesses were nothing more than an odd assortment of crackpots and toadies whose stories were incompatible with each other.

The jury took less than an hour of deliberation to return with a verdict of not guilty. The date was March 1, 1969, exactly two years after Shaw's arrest.

Two days later Garrison re-arrested Shaw, this time charging him with perjury. It took another two years, and the last of Shaw's retirement savings, finally to get the United States Supreme Court to order Garrison to stop persecuting Clay Shaw. By this time Shaw's resources were depleted, and he had to return to work.

The strain of the five-year ordeal took its toll on Shaw's health. He died of lung cancer on August 14, 1974. He was 61 years old.

To honor him, friends erected a plaque on one of the French Quarter buildings he had restored. They hoped that with time the public would come to know what they knew, that Shaw was a fine and decent man.

They did not anticipate that Oliver Stone would make a film called JFK, which made the unscrupulous Garrison into a hero and portrayed Shaw as a slimy underworld figure. Millions of people around the world who have seen the film presume it tells the truth.

Instead, however, the truth is on the plaque: "Clay Shaw was a patron of the humanities and lived his life with the utmost grace; an invaluable citizen, he was respected, admired, and loved by many."

The experience of Shaw is a telling reminder of the vulnerability of closeted gay men and lesbians in the pre-Stonewall era. Precisely because of his homosexuality, Shaw made an inviting target for the machinations of a ruthless politician.

Roberts Batson

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social sciences >> Overview:  New Orleans

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Co-author of the book of the celebrated musical A Chorus Line, James Kirkwood also wrote five popular novels and two nonfiction books.

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An important advocate for the poor and oppressed and one of the most influential women in the world, Eleanor Roosevelt had throughout her life strong attachments to women, some of them probably resulting in sexual intimacy.


Final Report of the Assassination Records Review Board. Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1998.

Garrison, Jim. A Heritage of Stone. New York: Putnam, 1970.

_____. On the Trail of the Assassins: My Investigation of the Murder of President Kennedy. New York: Sheridan Square, 1988.

James, Rosemary, and Jack Wardlaw. Plot or Politics: The Garrison Case & Its Cast. New Orleans: Pelican, 1967.

Kirkwood, James. American Grotesque: An Account of the Clay Shaw-Jim Garrison Affair in the City of New Orleans. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1970.

Lambert, Patricia. False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison's Investigation and Oliver Stone's Film JFK. Lanham, Md.: National Book Network, 2000.

Possner, Gerald. Case Closed. New York: Random House, 1993.

Report of the President's Commission on the Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1964.

Report of the Select Committee on Assassination. Washington, D. C.: United States Government Printing Office, 1979.


    Citation Information
    Author: Batson, Roberts  
    Entry Title: Shaw, Clay  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated January 18, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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