Lancaster Mayor Joe Shaw dies

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By Greg Summers

Joe Shaw, mayor of Lancaster for 33 years and winner of South Carolina's highest civilian honor, died Sunday.
Shaw, 83, died after a brief illness at Carolinas Medical Center in Pineville, N.C.
No one had a greater passion for Lancaster and its people than Shaw. From his days as a student in the hallways at Lancaster High School to city hall, where he served as Lancaster's mayor for 33 years, Shaw was a community advocate in every sense.
He leaves a legacy of public service that few can match. The city of Lancaster has lost one of its greatest champions and advocates, said Lancaster City Councilman John Howard.
“Lancaster took a very heavy hit today,” said John Howard, who also serves as mayor pro tem. “We lost a good man…. No, we lost a great man. As mayor pro tem, I would ask that everyone have the Shaw family in their prayers in the upcoming days."  
Born in Kershaw, Shaw was civic-minded much of his life, from helping develop a Dixie Youth Baseball program here, to serving on the PTAs of the schools where his son, Joe Jr., or “Little Joe,” attended.
He was active in many organizations including the Lancaster Jaycees and the Lancaster Civitan’s chapter and was recognized by both for his service.
He was also active in the Lancaster County Gamecock Club and First Baptist Church, where he served as an usher, as well as other leadership capacities.
“Joe was an icon and a leader who did a lot of good,” said Joe Grier, president of the Lancaster County Gamecock Club. “He was instrumental in the club being formed and was always supportive through the years.
“Joe was smart, but he also had a lot of common sense to go with that,” Grier said.
The area where Shaw really made his biggest mark was in local politics. He was  Lancaster's mayor from 1978-94 and 1998 to present.
Lancaster Fire Department Chief Chuck Small went to work as a city firefighter about the time Shaw was elected to his first term.
“He was a very strong supporter of the fire service, and if you could prove you needed something, he would support it,” Small said. “Mayor Shaw was especially proud of the recent ISO 1 rating the city recently received. It has been a pleasure to work for such a leader.”
Charlie Bundy, former president of the Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce, called Shaw a “crossover public servant” with a unique ability to work with a wide variety of individuals to come up with solutions.
 “Joe was an exceptional mayor with a deep love and dedication for all the people he served,” said Bundy. “He was one of a kind. The best way to describe him is Joe was mayor 24 hours a day, and we were fortunate to have someone of his character on the job.”
That ability drew statewide attention in 2010 when Shaw was award the Order of the Palmetto. A group of 20 or so local residents engineered the effort to honor Shaw.
The Order of the Palmetto is the highest civilian honor awarded by the state of South Carolina. It recognizes a person’s lifetime achievements and contributions to the state.
 “You, indeed, capture the essence of a ‘hands-on’ mayor. And for all you have done to make your city an even better place to live, work, learn and play – we extend our heartfelt gratitude.” then-Gov. Mark Sanford said in a letter that accompanied the award.
 “We were very fortunate to have him,” Bundy said. “We’ll carry on, but you better believe Joe Shaw is going to be missed by all of us.”
 Joe is survived by his wife, his high school sweetheart, Charlotte Mullis Shaw; one  son, Joe M. Shaw Jr. and his wife Melanie of Irmo; a granddaughter, JoAnna Lee Shaw of Chester; a step-granddaughter, Emily Kennedy Merritt of Irmo; and a sister, Jean S. Dover Spike of Columbia.
The family will receive friends from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at the Rotunda and Council Chambers at city hall, 216 S. Catawba St., and other times at the Shaw home, 106 N. Jackson Road.
Funeral services for Shaw are 3 p.m. Dec. 6 at First Baptist Church. Lancaster Funeral Home is in charge.

Contact copy editor Greg Summers at (803) 283-1156