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This is an article about the New Orleans businessman. See E. Clay Shaw, Jr. for an article about the politician from Florida.

Clay Laverne Shaw (March 17, 1913 – August 15, 1974) was a businessman in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was the only person prosecuted in connection with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. He was found not guilty.

Clay Shaw
Born March 17, 1913
Kentwood, Louisiana, United States
Died August 15, 1974 (aged 61)
New Orleans, Louisiana, United States
Cause of death Lung, brain and liver cancer
Nationality 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.



Shaw was honorably discharged from the United States Army as a major in 1946. He served as a office secretary to the General Staff and 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.[1]

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.[2]


New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison prosecuted Clay Shaw on the charge that Shaw and a group of right-wing activists, including David Ferrie and Guy Banister, were involved in a conspiracy with elements of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to kill President Kennedy. Garrison arrested Shaw on March 1, 1967. Garrison believed that Clay Shaw was the man named as "Clay Bertrand" in the Warren Commission Report. Garrison claimed that Shaw used the alias "Clay Bertrand" among New Orleans' gay society.[3]

This article is part of the
Jim Garrison Investigation
of the
JFK Assassination series.
Jim Garrison
John F. Kennedy
Clay Shaw
David Ferrie
Perry Russo
Guy Banister
George de Mohrenschildt
Dean Andrews Jr.
Fair Play for Cuba Committee
Cuban Democratic Revolutionary Front
Related articles
Trial of Clay Shaw
People involved in the trial of Clay Shaw
JFK (film)

The trial

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 Ferrie, Oswald, and "Clay Bertrand" (who Russo identified in the courtroom as Clay Shaw) had discussed killing Kennedy.[4]

Critics of Garrison argue that his own records indicate that Russo's story had evolved over time.[5] A key source was the "Sciambra Memo", which records Assistant D.A. Andrew Sciambra's [6] first interview with Russo. Not only does the memo fail to mention an "assassination party", it says that Russo met Shaw on two occasions, neither of which occurred at the "party".[7] Sciambra blamed himself for leaving out the Shaw/Ferrie/Oswald party episode, an omission that Shaw's attorneys were able to exploit by raising questions about the validity of Perry Russo's testimony.[8]

Another Garrison witness, Charles Spiesel, further weakened the prosecution's case with his testimony. Spiesel said, under cross examination, that he had filed a lawsuit in 1964 against a psychiatrist and the City of New York. He testified that, over a period of several years, the police and others had hypnotized him and harassed him out of business. He also said that he regularly fingerprinted his children.[9] Spiesel had been called as a witness for his claim that he had attended a gathering where Clay Shaw was present and identified himself as "Clay Bertrand". Land titles records showed the building where Spiesel claimed to have met Shaw was indeed owned by Shaw at the time of the alleged meeting. Shaw was acquitted less than one hour after the case went to the jury.


Garrison later wrote a book about his investigation of Clay Shaw and the subsequent trial called On the Trail of the Assassins. In the book, Garrison states that Shaw had an "extensive international role as an employee of the CIA".[10] Shaw denied any such connections.[11]

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.[12] By the mid-1970s, 150,000 Americans (businessmen, journalists, etc.) had provided such information to the DCS.

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations stated in its Final Report that the Committee was "... [i]nclined to believe that Oswald was in Clinton [Louisiana] in late August, early September 1963, and that he was in the company of David Ferrie, if not Clay Shaw".[13] and that witnesses in Clinton, Louisiana "... established an association of an undetermined nature between Ferrie, Shaw and Oswald less than 3 months before the assassination".[14]


Shaw died on August 15, 1974 (aged 61) about 12:40 AM at his residence, 1022 St. Peter Street. The death certificate was signed by Dr. Hugh M. Batson, with the cause of death listed as metastatic lung cancer.[15] No autopsy was performed.

Fictional portrayals

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.

Further reading

  • Joe Biles, In History's Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation. ISBN 0-595-22455-5
  • Milton Brener, The Garrison Case: A Study in the Abuse of Power. ASIN B0006C04I0
  • James DeEugenio Destiny Betrayed: JFK, Cuba, and the Garrison Case (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1992) ISBN 1-879823-00-4
  • William Davy, Let Justice Be Done: New Light on the Jim Garrison Investigation (Jordan Pub, 1999) ISBN 0-9669716-0-4
  • Jim Garrison, A Heritage of Stone (Putnam Publishing Group, 1970) ISBN 0-399-10398-8
  • Jim Garrison, On the Trail of the Assassins (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988) ISBN 0-446-36277-8
  • Max Holland, "The Power of Disinformation: The Lie that Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination", Studies in Intelligence, Fall-Winter 2001, No. 11
  • James Kirkwood, American Grotesque: An Account of the Clay Shaw-Jim Garrison-Kennedy Assassination Trial in New Orleans. ISBN 0-06-097523-7
  • Patricia Lambert, False Witness: The Real Story of Jim Garrison's Investigation and Oliver Stone's Film JFK. ISBN 0-87131-920-9
  • Jim Marrs, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy (New York: Carroll & Graf, 1989) ISBN 0-88184-648-1
  • Joan Mellen, A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK's Assassination, and the Case That Should Have Changed History (Washington, D.C.: Potomac Books, Inc., 2005) ISBN 1-57488-973-7
  • Anthony Summers, Not in Your Lifetime (New York: Marlowe & Company, 1998) ISBN 1-56924-739-0
  • Harold Weisberg, Oswald in New Orleans: Case for Conspiracy with the C.I.A. (New York: Canyon Books, 1967) ISBN B-000-6BTIS-S


  1. ^ "Clay L. Shaw", Dictionary of American Biography, Supplement 9: 1971-75. Charles Scribner's Sons, 1994.
  2. ^ 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?"
  3. ^ James Phelan, Scandals, Scamps, and Scoundrels, pp. 150-51. (ISBN 0-394-48196-8)
  4. ^ Testimony of Perry Russo
  5. ^ Way Too Willing Witness
  6. ^ John F. Kennedy assassination: Clay Shaw trial testimony of Andrew Sciambra, eyewitness testifying in connection with Perry Raymond Russo, eyewitness to alleged conspiracy in assassination of JFK
  7. ^ The Sciambra Memo
  8. ^ The Two Sciambra Memos
  9. ^ Attempt to Use Insane Witness Blows Up In Garrison's Face
  10. ^ Garrison, Jim. On The Trail of the Assassins, (New York: Sheridan Square Press, 1988), p. 87 (ISBN 0-446-36277-8)
  11. ^ James Phelan (2007). "The Penthouse Interview with Clay Shaw". penthouse. Retrieved 2007-12-18. "In this connection, the newspaper Paesa Sara published a long story alleging that you were connected with an "international commercial organization" named Centro Maondiale Commerciale, which Paesa Sara termed "a CIA front". What is your explanation? ... Other than what I've told you, I know nothing more about the Centro Mondiale Commerciale. I have never had any connection with the CIA."  
  12. ^ "The Lie that Linked CIA to the Kennedy Assassination"
  13. ^ HSCA Final Assassinations Report, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 145
  14. ^ HSCA Final Assassinations Report, House Select Committee on Assassinations, p. 143
  15. ^ "Clay Shaw: Mysterious Death?". mcadams. Date of Report 8-28-74. Retrieved 2007-12-19.  

External links

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