Local Obituaries

Fort Worth lawyer Jim Shaw fought cancer as hard as he fought for his clients

Attorney Jim Shaw at his downtown office in March 2012.
Attorney Jim Shaw at his downtown office in March 2012. Star-Telegram archives

Jim Shaw kept on not stopping.

Wearing a large Band-Aid masking a surgical scar on his forehead, Mr. Shaw began putting people at the Tarrant County Courthouse on notice earlier this year that he intended to retire — and then he didn’t.

He refused to abandon his clients.

Mr. Shaw, 66, died Wednesday, leaving behind a wife, four sons and a daughter. He was at the courthouse on West Belknap Street as recently as November doing what he always did, fighting to get the best treatment that he could for those who had put their lives in his hands at a time he himself had the fight of his own life on his hands.

“He fought cancer as hard as he could, just like he fought hard in the courtroom for his clients,” said Jim Renforth, his law partner since 2004. “He had such a big heart. His passing has left a huge, gaping hole in a lot of people’s lives. Even the [assistant district attorneys] who he fought with, in the end, they would still be his friends.”

James Howard Shaw was born Sept. 12, 1950, in Fort Worth to Bill and Betty Shaw. He graduated from Paschal High School, Louisiana Tech University on a track scholarship and then Texas Tech University Law School.

He received his license to practice law in Texas in 1975, according to State Bar of Texas records, and began a private practice after a brief stint with the Tarrant County district attorney’s office after being hired by former District Attorney Tim Curry.

Renforth said Mr. Shaw had slowed down some in the waning months of his life but was still as sharp, as incisive, as plugged-in as when they first met.

“He had a way of talking with clients that made them feel at ease with what was going on,” Renforth said. “He had a way of reading people that made him effective. Talking to Jim always made people feel better. He was a great source of strength for me and he always gave good advice. He was just as good at being a husband and a father.”

District Attorney Sharen Wilson said: “He’s my friend, and I miss him. … It’s really the end of an era.”

He was a constant source of consternation for his opponents in the courtroom, according to his friends. Larry Moore, criminal division chief in the district attorney’s office, said that he knew Mr. Shaw when he was still in high school, where his competitiveness showed in athletics.

“Jim had an unerring sense of right and wrong, and he was always the champion for the underdog,” Moore said. “He was hardheaded as a stump when he thought he was right and when he stood up for a client. He was a great defender, and he will be sorely missed.”

Tarrant County prosecutor Allenna Bangs said that while Mr. Shaw could make opponents crazy as an adversary, he had jokes to tell later that would cheer them up.

Art Brender, also a well-known criminal defense attorney, said he and Shaw were members of a young lawyers basketball team that was regularly beaten.

“Then we found the secret: We joined the accountants league, where we were kings of the court,” Brender said. “But come playoff time we’d get beaten again.”

Melinda Westmoreland, a Tarrant County prosecutor and another friend who warred with Mr. Shaw in the courtroom, said no one had a bigger heart. He would help anyone anytime, Westmoreland said.

“After 42 years of practice, Jim’s energy for his clients never faded; it only increased,” Westmoreland said. “From a traffic ticket to a capital murder case, Jim fought until the very end for each and every one of his clients. Although he is no longer with us, his legacy and memory will live on in the hearts of many.”

His daughter, Aimee Plummer of Fort Worth, said her father always made time for his children, always wanted people around and always tried his best to make them happy.

His grandchildren “will miss his humor,” Plummer said. “He was always upbeat, always happy, and he always encouraged them to do their best, which is what he always did. As soon as they got into the house they would run to their Bumbo.”

Mr. Shaw’s grandchildren called him “Bumbo” because they could not pronounce the “J” in his other nickname, Jumbo, Plummer said. Bumbo was the name that stuck.

“He loved it,” Plummer said.

Other survivors include his wife, Carol; four sons, James Shaw Jr. of Oklahoma City, Ben Shaw of Hattiesburg, Miss., Tim Shaw of Ruston, La., and Steven Prewitt of Fort Worth; three brothers, Bill Shaw, David Shaw and Greg Shaw, all of Fort Worth; and 11 grandchildren.

Mitch Mitchell: 817-390-7752, @mitchmitchel3


Service for Mr. Shaw will be at 2 p.m. Tuesday at McKinney Bible Church, 4805 Arborlawn Drive, with burial to follow.