By Fred Shaw, Jr.
very once in a while, a foot soldier comes along to serve as a guidon for others to follow. They unsuspectingly go through life setting the pace with their high ethical standards, many times unaware of the positive impact they have on lives around them.
Their enemies often become rungs on their ladder to success; their enemies, when in trouble, also turn to them for help. These people are humbled by acknowledgments and awards bestowed on them, but usually think it is just part of the job.
It is not always easy to walk in such leaders’ footsteps as they leave giant prints that would engulf most of us. We are fortunate however when we have the opportunity to learn from them.
I happen to be one of the lucky ones. I was born to socially active parents, Frederick D. and Marcine B. Shaw, who believe that all people are creations of God and should be treated as such.
Marcine, a native of Beaumont, Texas, is City Council member in the City of Compton. Those who know her say she brings an old-fashioned work ethic in a time when many politicians are lazy, unconcerned and disconnected from the people they serve.
Marcine’s career of serving others began in 1950 when she enrolled in the United States Army, where she obtained the rank of sergeant in the Women’s Army Corp.
In 1954, she married Frederick D. Shaw; from that union came four children. Life was normal for a financially struggling family with hopes that times would get better.
In the early 1960s, Marcine became active in the Parent/ Teachers Association, followed by her installment as a board member for the Willowbrook Unified School District and president of the George Washington Carver Elementary School PTA.
Through her extensive work with children, Marcine came into contact with disadvantaged children who had no hope of getting a fair chance at the game of life. Thus in 1965 Marcine and Fred started the Shaw Nursery for Mentally Retarded Children. Having only a six-bed facility at the start, Marcine became the first owner of a small facility and first minority representative to head the State Association for the Mentally Retarded. Because of her love and care for the disabled children, two of them — one black and the other white — were found not to have been mentally retarded. Rather, the children were just socially deprived and academically delayed. Marcine legally adopted both children, who matured as productive members of society.
That same year, affronted and indignant at the idea that her son was barred from playing Pop Warner Football in a more affluent section of Los Angeles, Marcine created the Willowbrook Youth Athletics Association for youth throughout the district of Los Angeles County. Hers was the first minority-created and run Pop Warner Football organization in the inner cities of the county — providing thousands of inner-city children with the opportunity to participate as athletes and cheerleaders. Some of the children moved on to play professional football, basketball and baseball. Others became doctors, lawyers and community activists and leaders — including the mayor of the City of Compton.
Marcine’s record led her to a position as the Senior Deputy to Los Angeles County Supervisors Kenneth Hahn and Yvonne Brathwaite-Burke — a position she held for 18 years.
As a senior deputy, she was instrumental in implementing several community outreach programs, among them the Food Net outreach program which served as a prototype for the nation.
Knowing the positive influence that celebrities can have with youth and adults alike, Marcine also started the “Living Legends” program, honoring and bringing a host of stars ranging from Cab Calloway to Isaac Hayes to Los Angeles County.
Her responsibilities with the County Board of Supervisors office also included overseeing several county departments for the second supervisorial district, including the Sheriffs, Public Social Services, Senior Citizens, Community Services, Medical Examiner/Coroner, Parks and Recreation and Military and Veterans Affairs.
From Marcine’s labors and influence also came such notable organizations as Basic Life Institute, Drug-Free USA, Marcine Shaw Youth Center, the State Democratic Club and the World Literacy Crusade International, to name a few.
Marcine was elected to the Compton City Council in 1989, and in 1993, re-elected by an overwhelming majority vote.
As a city council member, Marcine has represented the City of Compton on such major projects and committees as the billion-dollar Alameda Corridor Transportation Project, the Southern California Association of Governments, the regional Council and NAFTA Committee and the Independent Cities Association. She serves as chair of the Gateway Cities Council of Government, comprised of the representatives of 27 cities, and as chair of the Emergency Preparedness Commission and Vice-Chair of the League of Cities. Her influence stretches to Africa, where she is recognized as a Queen Mother, and to China, where she was one of a handful of keynote speakers at the International League of Cities conference held in that country.
Recognized by United States Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and by former California Governor Pete Wilson, as well as other federal, state, county and city officials and community-based organizations, Marcine Shaw’s awards are too many to list in a single article profiling her life.
The progress of civilization is marked by leaders who penetrated the spiritual soul of society and who left their legacy for all to experience: Jesus Christ, Confucius, the Buddha, L. Ron Hubbard and others have impacted the course of history, while others like Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa have elevated the social conscience. Yet, it often remains to the foot soldiers, like Marcine Shaw, who keep the ideals of these men and women burning long after they are gone.
It was the foot soldier that history may not remember who stormed the mountain of despair and came back with news of hope. It was the foot soldier who beat all odds when the odds were unbeatable, told the truth when it was unpopular and refused the bribe when others would have taken it.
It is they who live in the trenches of life and fight to keep the dreamer’s dream alive.
Marcine Shaw is without doubt of their breed.
– The author, Fred Shaw, Jr., is a former Los Angeles Deputy Sheriff who retired from a career in law enforcement to devote his life full time to improving literacy for youth in Los Angeles and throughout the world (see also “LA’s Invincible Crusade”). He is Marcine Shaw’s son.