Former representative Clay Shaw, R-Fla., pictured in a 2005 meeting with the USA TODAY editorial board. / Leslie Smith Jr., USA TODAY
An architect of the nation's landmark welfare overhaul is being remembered Wednesday for his service in Congress and as mayor of Fort Lauderdale.
Clay Shaw, 74, died Tuesday after a long battle with lung cancer, his family announced. After serving six years as mayor of Fort Lauderdale in the 1970s, the moderate Republican came to Washington in the Reagan administration and established himself as a key legislator on issues related to Social Security, taxes, welfare and trade.
Shaw is perhaps best known for his work on the House Ways and Means Committee, and in 1996 he crafted and steered a major rewrite of the nation's welfare system through Congress. The revised law added work requirements for welfare recipients and became a widely heralded, bipartisan achievement for then-President Bill Clinton and the GOP-led Congress.
His family's statement noted that the overhaul "resulted in an end to welfare dependency on government while igniting the human spirit. Today, countless Americans are off welfare and working."
Shaw, whose civility made him stand out in an increasingly partisan Washington, lost his House seat in 2006 in the wave that gave the Democrats the majority. In all, Shaw served 26 years in Congress.
Former Florida senator George LeMieux, who once was an intern for Shaw, told the Associated Press that Shaw "spent a long career in Congress trying to accomplish, without partisanship or rancor, what was best for the people in his congressional district."
Shaw is survived by his wife, Emilie, four children and 15 grandchildren. He will be buried in Cuba, Ala., and a memorial service will be held at a later date in Fort Lauderdale.
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