Clay Shaw

This article is about the New Orleans businessman. For the Florida politician, see E. Clay Shaw, Jr.
Clay Shaw

Shaw in December 1968
Born Clay LaVerne Shaw
March 17, 1913
Kentwood, Louisiana, United States
Died August 15, 1974(1974-08-15) (aged 61)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Cause of death Lung cancer with metastasis to brain and liver
Nationality European American
Occupation Businessman and director of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans
Known for Head of the International Trade Mart; charged for being part of a conspiracy to assassinate President John F. Kennedy.

Clay LaVerne Shaw (March 17, 1913 – August 15, 1974)[1] was a businessman in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the only person prosecuted in connection with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and was acquitted.


Shaw, a native of Kentwood, Louisiana, was the son of Glaris L., a United States Marshal, and Alice Shaw.[2] His grandfather had been the sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish.[2] When he was five, Shaw's family moved to New Orleans, where he eventually attended Warren Easton High School.[2]

Shaw served as an officer in the United States Army during World War II. He served as secretary to the General Staff and later served in Europe. He was decorated by three nations: the United States with the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star, by France with the Croix de Guerre and named Chevalier de l'Ordre du Merite, and by Belgium named Chevalier of the Order of the Crown of Belgium. Shaw was honorably discharged from the United States Army as a major in 1946.[3]

After World War II Shaw helped start the International Trade Mart in New Orleans which facilitated the sales of both domestic and imported goods. He was known locally for his efforts to preserve buildings in New Orleans' historic French Quarter.[4]

Arrest and trial

Main article: Trial of Clay Shaw

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison prosecuted Clay Shaw on the charge that Shaw and a group of activists, including David Ferrie and Guy Banister, were involved in a conspiracy with elements of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the John F. Kennedy assassination. Garrison arrested Shaw on March 1, 1967.[5] Garrison believed that Clay Shaw was the man named as "Clay Bertrand" in the Warren Commission Report. Garrison said that Shaw used the alias "Clay Bertrand" among New Orleans' gay society.[6][7]

During the trial, which took place in January–February 1969, Garrison called insurance salesman Perry Russo as his main witness. Russo testified that he had attended a party at the apartment of anti-Castro activist David Ferrie. At the party, Russo said that Lee Harvey Oswald (who Russo said was introduced to him as "Leon Oswald"), David Ferrie, and "Clem Bertrand" (who Russo identified in the courtroom as Clay Shaw) had discussed killing Kennedy.[8] The conversation included plans for the "triangulation of crossfire" and alibis for the participants.[8]

Critics of Garrison argue that his own records indicate that Russo's story had evolved over time.[9] A key source was the "Sciambra Memo," which recorded Assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra's[10] first interview with Russo. The memo does not mention an "assassination party," and it says that Russo met with Shaw on two occasions, neither of which occurred at the party.[11]

On March 1, 1969 Shaw was acquitted less than one hour after the case went to the jury.[12][13][14]


A heavy smoker most of his life, Clay Shaw died on August 15, 1974(1974-08-15) (aged 61) about 12:40 AM at his residence, 1022 St. Peter Street.[15] The death certificate was signed by Dr. Hugh M. Batson, with the cause of death listed as metastatic lung cancer.[16]

At the time of his death, Shaw was engaged in a $5 million suit against Garrison and members of an organization, Truth and Consequences Inc., that financed Garrison's investigation.[17] With no surviving relatives, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the suit in 1978.[18]


In 1979, Richard Helms, former director of the CIA, testified under oath that Clay Shaw had been a part-time contact of the Domestic Contact Service of the CIA, where Shaw volunteered information from his travels abroad, mostly to Latin America. By the mid-1970s, 150,000 Americans (businessmen, and journalists, etc.) had provided such information to the DCS. In 1996, the CIA revealed that Clay Shaw had obtained a "five Agency" clearance in 1949.


Shaw was portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK. Jones received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role.


  1. "Person Details for Clay L Shaw, "United States Social Security Death Index" —". FamilySearch. Retrieved 2014-01-15.
  2. 1 2 3 James, Rosemary; Wardlaw, Jack (1967). Plot Or Politics?: The Garrison Case and Its Cast. New Orleans: Pelican Publishing Company. p. 62. ISBN 9781589809185. Retrieved August 6, 2015.
  3. "Clay L. Shaw", Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 9: 1971-75. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
  4. Milton E. Brener, The Garrison Case (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1969), pp. 62-64; Patricia Lambert, False Witness (New York: M. Evans and Co., 1998), pp. 48-49; Paris Flammonde, The Kennedy Conspiracy (New York: Meredith Press, 1969), pp. 71-74; Clay Shaw testimony, State of Louisiana v. Clay L. Shaw, February 27, 1969 "The JFK 100: Who Was Clay Shaw?"
  5. Chriss, Nicholas C (March 2, 1967). "New Orleans Civic Leader Accused. Quizzed for Five Hour's About Conspiracy in Assassination". New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  6. James Phelan, Scandals, Scamps, and Scoundrels, pp. 150-51. (ISBN 0-394-48196-8)
  7. Garrison, Jim. On The Trail of the Assassins, (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988), pp. 85-86. ISBN 0-941781-02-X
  8. 1 2 Testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw, February 10, 1969.
  9. "Way Too Willing Witness". Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  10. Direct Examination of Assistant District Attorney Andrew Sciambra by Defense Attorney Alcock, State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw, February 12, 1969.
  11. "The Sciambra Memo". Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  12. Clay Shaw Interview, Penthouse, November 1969, pp. 34-35.
  13. "Clay Shaw Trial Transcripts, February 28, 1969, page 47". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  14. The Times-Picayune archive. "John Pope, "Andrew 'Moo Moo' Sciambra, who worked on Jim Garrison investigation of JFK assassination, dies at age 75." ''The Times-Picayune,'' (July 28, 2010)". Retrieved 2013-11-26.
  15. Bird, David (August 16, 1974). "Clay Shaw Is Dead at 60. Freed in Kennedy 'Plot'. New Orleans Businessman Accused of Planning President's Murder. Doubts Are Cited. Both 'Plotters' Dead". New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  16. "Clay Shaw: Mysterious Death?". mcadams. Date of Report 8-28-74. Retrieved December 19, 2007. Check date values in: |date= (help)

Further reading

External links

This article is issued from Wikipedia - version of the 11/7/2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.