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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.

Clay Shaw
Clay Shaw.jpg
Laverne C. Shaw

(1913-03-17)March 17, 1913
Kentwood, Louisiana, United States
DiedAugust 15, 1974(1974-08-15) (aged 61)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
EducationWarren Easton High School
OccupationBusinessman and director of the International Trade Mart in New Orleans
  • Glaris Lenora Shaw.
  • Alice Herrington Shaw
Military career
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Army
RankUS-O4 insignia.svg Major
Battles/warsWorld War II



Shaw, a native of Kentwood, Louisiana, was the son of Glaris Lenora Shaw,[2] a United States Marshal, and Alice Shaw.[3] His grandfather had been the sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish.[3] When he was five, Shaw's family moved to New Orleans, where he eventually attended Warren Easton High School.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5]

Shaw was also a published playwright. The best-known of his works, Submerged (1929),[6] was co-authored with H. Stuart Cottman[7][8][9] when both were still high-school students.[10][11]

Arrest and trialEdit

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.[12] Garrison believed that Shaw was the man named as "Clay Bertrand" in the Warren Commission Report. Garrison said that Shaw used the alias Clay Bertrand in New Orleans' gay society.[13][14]

During the trial, which took place in January–February 1969, Garrison called insurance salesman Perry Russo[citation needed] 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 "Clay Bertrand" (who Russo identified in the courtroom as Shaw) had discussed killing Kennedy.[15] The conversation included plans for the "triangulation of crossfire" and alibis for the participants.[15]

Critics of Garrison argue that his own records indicate that Russo's story had evolved over time.[16] A key source was the "Sciambra Memo," which recorded Assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra's[17] first interview with Russo. The memo does not mention an "assassination party," and says that Russo met with Shaw on two occasions, neither of which occurred at the party.[18]

On March 1, 1969, Shaw was found not guilty on all charges after the jury deliberated for less than one hour. Despite his acquittal, Shaw's reputation and public image never fully recovered.[19][20][21]


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.[22] The death certificate was signed by Dr. Hugh M. Batson, with the cause of death listed as metastatic lung cancer.[23] Shaw was buried in Woodland Cemetery in Kentwood, Louisiana.[24]

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.[25] As Shaw had no surviving relatives, the United States Supreme Court dismissed the suit in 1978.[26]

Later disclosuresEdit

  • In 1979, Richard Helms, former director of the CIA, testified under oath that 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.[27]
  • In 1996, the CIA revealed that Shaw had obtained a "five Agency" clearance in 1949.[28]


Tommy Lee Jones portrayed Shaw in Oliver Stone's 1991 film JFK.[29] He was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the role.[30]


  1. ^ "Person Details for Clay L Shaw, "United States Social Security Death Index" —". FamilySearch. Retrieved January 15, 2014.
  2. ^ "United States World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942". shows Clay's father's full name "Glaris Lenora Shaw", born in Kentwood Louisiana on 25 November 1887.
  3. ^ a b c 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.
  4. ^ "Clay L. Shaw", Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 9: 1971-75. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
  5. ^ 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?"
  6. ^ Cottman, H. Stuart; Shaw, Le Vergne (October 23, 1929). Wise, Claude Merton (ed.). Submerged: a tragedy in one act. Gateway series of tested plays. Evanston, Illinois: Row, Peterson & Company. OCLC 949841804.
  7. ^ "Louisiana, Orleans Parish Vital Records, 1905-1913, 1955-1963". shows Herman Stuart Cottman birthdate as 23 March 1911.
  8. ^ "United States Census, 1930". shows Herman S. Cottman residing in household of Alfred J. Lewis in New Orleans, Louisiana, being 19 years old as of April 4, 1930.
  9. ^ "Louisiana First Registration Draft Cards, compiled 1940-1945". shows Herman Stuart Cottman birthdate as 23 March 1911.
  10. ^ Snyder, Michael (2010). ""I Feel Like a Spring Lamb" - What Clay Shaw's Literary Life Reveals". In Williams, John Delane; Waite, Robert G.; Gordon, Gregory S. (eds.). John F. Kennedy History, Memory, Legacy: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry. Archived from the original on May 23, 2013. Retrieved December 27, 2016.
  11. ^ Kubiatowicz, David (March 13, 2010). "A Short Acting Career". White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Retrieved November 24, 2017. [The premise of Submerged] is a crippled submarine in which the Commander ... has decided to launch himself out of the torpedo hold with a note on his body indicating the location of the submarine for would be rescuers to see.
  12. ^ Chriss, Nicholas C (March 2, 1967). "New Orleans Civic Leader Accused. Quizzed for Five Hour's About Conspiracy in Assassination". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  13. ^ James Phelan, Scandals, Scamps, and Scoundrels, pp. 150-51. (ISBN 0-394-48196-8)
  14. ^ Garrison, Jim. On The Trail of the Assassins, (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988), pp. 85-86. ISBN 0-941781-02-X
  15. ^ a b Testimony of Perry Raymond Russo, State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw, February 10, 1969.
  16. ^ "Way Too Willing Witness". Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  17. ^ Direct Examination of Assistant District Attorney Andrew Sciambra by Defense Attorney Alcock, State of Louisiana vs. Clay L. Shaw, February 12, 1969.
  18. ^ "The Sciambra Memo". Retrieved September 17, 2010.
  19. ^ Clay Shaw Interview, Penthouse, November 1969, pp. 34-35.
  20. ^ "Clay Shaw Trial Transcripts, February 28, 1969, page 47". Retrieved November 1, 2013.
  21. ^ 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 November 26, 2013.
  22. ^ 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". The New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2010.
  23. ^ "Clay Shaw: Mysterious Death?". John C. McAdams. Retrieved November 29, 2017. Date of Hospitalization Case Report: 1974-08-28
  24. ^ Wilson, Scott (August 17, 2016). "Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed". McFarland – via Google Books.
  25. ^ "Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Google News Archive Search".
  26. ^ Times-Picayune, The. "1968: The Clay Shaw trial on JFK conspiracy charges".
  27. ^ Holland, Max (2001). "The Lie That Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination". Studies in Intelligence. Washington, D.C.: Central Intelligence Agency: Center for the Study of Intelligence (Fall-Winter 2001, 11). Retrieved August 15, 2014.
  28. ^ "ARRB REQUEST: CIA-IR-06, QKENCHANT" (pdf). Central Intelligence Agency. May 14, 1996. p. 5. Retrieved November 25, 2013.
  29. ^ Weinraub, Bernard (August 1, 1993). "FILM; Tommy Lee Jones Snarls His Way to the Pinnacle". NY Times. The New York Times Company. p. 2011. Retrieved January 26, 2019.
  30. ^ "Tommy Lee Jones' First Oscar Win Brought With It Some Awesome Eyewear". Huffington Post. Oath Inc. February 24, 2013. Retrieved December 6, 2017.

Further readingEdit

  • Brener, Milton (1969). The Garrison Case: A Study in the Abuse of Power. New York: C. N. Potter.[ISBN missing]
  • Garrison, Jim (1970). A Heritage of Stone. Putnam Publishing Group. ISBN 0-399-10398-8.
  • Garrison, Jim (1988). On the Trail of the Assassins. New York: Sheridan Square Press. ISBN 0-446-36277-8.
  • Holland, Max (2001). "The Power of Disinformation: The Lie that Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination". Studies in Intelligence. 11 (Fall–Winter).
  • Kirkwood, James (1992). American Grotesque: An Account of the Clay Shaw–Jim Garrison–Kennedy Assassination Trial in New Orleans. New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 0-06-097523-7.
  • Lambert, Patricia (2000). False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison's Investigation and Oliver Stone's Film 'JFK'. New York: M. Evans. ISBN 0-87131-920-9.
  • Summers, Anthony (1998). Not in Your Lifetime. New York: Marlowe & Company. ISBN 1-56924-739-0.
  • Weisberg, Harold (1967). Oswald in New Orleans: Case for Conspiracy with the C.I.A. New York: Canyon Books.[ISBN missing]

External linksEdit