Stephen F. Austin State University

'Dush' Shaw was the dean of East Texas clerks (August 2017)

'Dush' Shaw was the dean of East Texas clerks

By Van Craddock

"Dush" Shaw was no job-hopper. In fact, he served as Gregg County clerk for so long, he wore out one courthouse and was working on a second.

For 47 years, from the Spanish-American War through World War II, residents voted for the affable Shaw to issue their marriage licenses and file their deeds. He never lost an election. Most of the time he didn't even draw an opponent.

Dushee "Dush" Shaw was born in 1871 in northeastern Rusk County near what today is Easton. When he was three years old his physician father, Dr. Dan Shaw, moved his family to Longview.

As a young man Dush married Ida Rule of Shreveport, La., and worked for the International & Great Northern Railroad a few years until bitten by the political bug. Mrs. Shaw covered society news for the Longview News-Journal for a number of years. One of their daughters, Julia Shaw Acker, later was a News-Journal society editor.

"Dush" Shaw ran for county clerk in 1898 and the 27-year-old political newcomer edged the incumbent by a handful of votes. Future elections held every two years, generally proved much easier.

When Shaw took office, Gregg County had just opened a new courthouse. The redbrick structure served the public until 1932 when the East Texas Oil Boom necessitated a larger building. After a while, folks just couldn't imagine somebody other than Shaw as county clerk.

A 1940 Longview Daily News article summed up that year's re-election campaign:

"Mr. Shaw, who is recognized as the dean of Texas county clerks, is hale and hearty and was feeling splendid after having completed a thorough campaign. He attended and took part in every political rally, not to mention pie suppers, picnics, cemetery workings and the like."

That year saw Shaw do something he hadn't done in prior elections:

"Before the days of the loud-speaking devices, he was satisfied to call on the voters and talk with them individually. He seldom, if ever, took the stump. This year was an exception, however.

"(Stump-speaking) was a new experience and he obviously enjoyed it. His first address was made at Danville and, as fate would have it, something went wrong with the amplifier - he was unfazed."

Through the decades Shaw "won a reputation for having one of the best systematized clerk's offices in the state, and is frequently visited and consulted by clerks from distant counties with the object of improving their office management and filing systems," the Daily News observed.

When Shaw took office in 1898, the county's total assessed value was $1.5 million. Forty years later assessed value in Gregg County was $107 million.

The veteran county clerk died in his courthouse office on Nov. 26, 1945, two years after the death of Ida. Following his death the Longview paper said:

"His devotion to his job was a legend. Only one thing mattered: everything must be done right. When the East Texas Oil Boom in 1931 brought a triple increase in the county's population, the way in which he handled the ever-increasing flood of new business became an inspiration to everyone who served him and everyone he served.

"(Shaw) had a fondness for the work attendant upon office-holding because it gave him the opportunity to get out and mix and mingle with the people. He often returned after hours to accommodate the public.

"His pleasing personality, his keen sense of humor, his kindness, consideration and understanding, his knack for saying and doing the right thing at the right time, made him loved by everyone."