Leander J. Shaw Jr.

On this day in history, September 6, 1930, Leander Jerry Shaw, Jr., an American jurist who served as the first african American Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court from 1990 to 1992.

Born in Salem, Virginia, Shaw went to Lylburn Downing School in Lexington, Virginia. He graduated from West Virginia State University in 1952 before serving in the United States Army during the Korean War. In 1957, Shaw received his law degree from Howard University School of Law and in 1957 moved to Tallahassee, Florida and was a law professor at Florida A&M University. He was admitted to the Florida bar in 1960 and practiced law in Jacksonville, Florida.

When Leander Shaw took the Florida Bar exam in 1960, he was not allowed to stay or eat at the whites-only hotel in Miami where the exam was administered. Three decades later, Shaw became the first black chief justice of the Florida Supreme Court.

Shaw served on the Florida State Attorney staff in 1969, and in 1972, Shaw was appointed to the Florida Industrial Relations Commission. From 1979 to 1983, Shaw served on the Florida District Courts of Appeal. Shaw served on the Florida Supreme Court from 1983 until 2003 and was Chief Justice of that court from 1990 to 1992. He also served as judge in residence at Washington and Lee University School of Law in Lexington, Virginia. Shaw died on December 14, 2015 in Tallahassee, Florida at the age of 85.


Shaw, whose career included working as a public defender, prosecutor, and appeals-court judge before serving on the Supreme Court, died at age 85. A statement from the Supreme Court said Shaw had suffered from a lengthy illness.


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