LAKELAND — Former state representative and Lakeland mayor Jay Shaw passed away early Monday morning, according to family.
Shaw had been awaiting a heart transplant at Emory University Hospital.
He was 67 years old.
Shaw served 10 years as Lakeland mayor and 16 years as the District 176 state representative. Upon stepping down from the state House of Representatives, his son, Jason Shaw, campaigned for District 176 and won. He served on the Georgia Department of Transportation board.
“From the time Jay was elected mayor of our community he discovered a new career — politics. He was our friend in Atlanta,” said J.H. “Sandy” Sanders with the Lakeland/Lanier County Chamber of Commerce. “To most people, he was just Jay, who loved his family, Unity Methodist Church where he grew up and the people of this county. Just over a week ago, a dear friend was celebrating her 90th birthday. From his hospital bed at Emory, he called her and sang ‘Happy Birthday’ in his deep baritone voice. ‘I will never forget this,’ she said. ‘But, that was just Jay.’”
He entered politics in the late 1970s, when he was in his 30s. Shaw recalled in a past interview with The Valdosta Daily Times being aggravated that younger people weren’t more involved in Lanier County politics. His father, Slaton Shaw, part of that older generation of leadership as a member of the school board, had enough of his son’s frustrations.
Jay Shaw recalled the extent of their conversation: “My daddy said to me, ‘You either need to keep your mouth shut, or
As a boy, Jay Shaw was surrounded by politics and public service.
His mother was Doris Pafford Shaw. His uncle, Bobby Pafford, served as a state representative for 12 years before serving on the Georgia Public Service Commission for two decades.
Levin Pafford, Jay Shaw’s maternal grandfather, had the distinction of serving on two county school boards simultaneously back in the years when South Georgia’s large counties kept splitting into the smaller counties we recognize today. Levin Pafford served on both the Clinch and Lanier county school boards.
In addition to his father’s service on the Lanier County school board, Slaton Shaw was named for Georgia Gov. John Marshall Slaton, who served as governor from 1911-12 and again 1913-15.
Jay Shaw’s middle name was Slaton. For several years, he kept a bust of Gov. Slaton posted outside of his House office.
“My family has been in politics for years. I grew up in a household where public service is an honorable thing,” Jay Shaw said in a past interview. “Some folks say it’s a genetic flaw. I say politics is in my blood.”
Elected to the House of Representatives in 1994, Shaw viewed his legislation to end long-distance calls within counties as one of his key achievements. Those living in South Georgia by the mid 1990s may well recall the days when phoning someone from Hahira to Lake Park required a long-distance call.
A family emergency made Shaw painfully aware of the ridiculous nature and expense of these long-distance calls for relatively short distances. Shaw successfully inserted a regulation in what was a state deregulation bill to end this practice.
In subsequent years, he became involved in the state’s health-care system, becoming an advocate for rural hospitals. He chaired the House appropriations committee on health.
He survived the political tumult that saw Georgia switch from a predominantly one-party Democratic state to a predominantly one-party Republican state.
He remained a Democrat throughout his political career, but he supported his son’s run for the state seat as a Republican.
“I aligned myself with the Democrats because they were in charge,” he said. “I was there for the people I represent.”
To better serve his constituents, he went with the majority party.
Once the GOP was in charge, Republicans offered Shaw a chairmanship if he switched parties. He remained a Democrat despite the change in the state’s political fortunes.
Still, Shaw said, if he had started his state career later when the GOP was in charge, he would have run as a Republican. Starting with the majority party is the best way to get results for the constituents you represent, he said.
Deciding not to seek reelection to the statehouse in 2010, Shaw was tapped to become a member of the state DOT board. His first DOT term ran through last week, ending April 15.
In addition to politics, Shaw owned and operated a family insurance business.
He was married to wife Libby Shaw, and had two sons, Jason and Sam, and grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday. Music Funeral Services of Lakeland is handling arrangements.