Ann Shaw, a petite powerhouse who accumulated an impressive series of ‘firsts’ as an African American woman, passed away on May 5. She was 93 years old and a resident of Lafayette Square in the Mid-City District of Los Angeles.
Known as a ‘quiet pioneer for women and minorities,’ Shaw achieved a number of milestones during her 50 years of civic and civil rights involvement. She was the first woman appointed to California Commission on Judicial Performance, the first African American president of LA’s YWCA, and the first female president of the Board of Founders Saving and Loan.
In addition, Shaw was the first African American board member of the University of Redlands Trustees, Lloyds Bank of California Trustees, the Boys and Girls Club of Southern California, UCLA Medical School Board of Visitors and Loyola Law School Board of Visitors.
The highlight of Shaw’s civil rights involvment came when she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. During a 2011 interview[DL1] , she recalled, “During the civil rights movement, we invited a friend to dinner who asked if she could bring a couple, one from her hometown and I said, ‘Of course.’ It was a lovely dinner and as the evening went on, we found that her friend was working in the civil rights movement.
“He said he was trying to get organized in Los Angeles and asked if we knew the leaders here. We said, ‘Of course, we’ve been living here a long time and we know who’s who here.’ [After the dinner}, we said goodbye and hope to see you again and we went on with our lives.
“About 10 days later, we received a letter from Martin Luther King and A. Phillip Randolph expressing appreciation for the dinner and the list of leaders in Los Angeles that we provided. I was delighted and I still have the letter in my safe deposit box at the bank.”
Ann Shaw and Lady Bird Johnson.
Her acquaintance with Malcolm X occurred while she was traveling with the YWCA for its world leadership meeting in Switzerland.
“I had a chance to fly there and meet leaders from all over the world. On my way home, I saw an African American man at the airport that looked familiar. As I got closer, I said, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s Malcolm X.’
‘We flew to Paris together and it was truly wonderful to meet him. He told me if I ever needed him or if my husband needed him, he would come and help us if he could. It was an exciting experience to meet both of our leaders,” remembered Shaw.
During her lifetime, Shaw received numerous awards and honors including the United Way’s highest award, the Gold Key Award, NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s Black Woman of Achievement Award (1985), and was named “Woman of the Year” by the Los Angeles Times (1969), Los Angeles Sentinel (1964) and the California State Legislature.
Ann Shaw (center) with her children (l-r) Valerie, Becky, Leslie and Dan (far right) join Mayor Tom Bradley and Great Western (now Chase) Bank Board Chairman President James Montgomery at the Leslie N. Shaw Sr. Memorial Grant Reception in 1987. (Guy Crowder photo)
She was also recognized by religious denominations for her community efforts. A devout Episcopalian, she was saluted by the African Methodist Episcopal Church with the Outstanding Civic Worker and Citizen Award and the San Fernando Valley Jewish Community Center planted trees in her honor in the John F. Kennedy Peace Forest in Israel.
A native of Columbus, Ohio, Shaw was a graduate of Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. She earned her B.A. degree from the University of Redlands, her M.A. degree from Ohio State University, her M.S.W. from the University of Southern California. Also, the University of Redlands conferred her an honorary doctorate degree in 1971.
Her affiliations included life memberships in the NAACP, National Council of Negro Women and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Also, she was a member and past president of the Wilfandel Club of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Urban League where she served six years on the Board of Directors including one term as vice president. Her additional board memberships were with the American Red Cross – L.A. Chapter, USC School of Social Work and the Cathedral Center of the Episcopal Diocese.
Looking back over her life, Shaw said in 2011, “I had a wonderful husband and I am proud of my children and grandchildren. I love to cook, love to read, love a good bridge game and time spent with my close friends. It’s nice to love and be loved by people.”
Dr. Martin Luther King, Postmaster Leslie Shaw and Ann Shaw in the 1960s.
Shaw was the widow of the late Leslie N. Shaw, Sr., the first Black postmaster of Los Angeles. Her son, Leslie Jr., preceded her in death. Survivors are her children, Dan (Karen), Rebecca (James) and Valerie; grandchildren, P.D. IV (Robin), Kofi, Aliya, Semaje, Kyrra and Asha; and great-grandchild, Daniel.
Her service is Thursday, May 14, at 10 a.m., at Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 W. Adams Blvd., in Los Angeles. The Rev. Vanessa MacKensie will officiate the Episcopalian service.
In lieu of flowers, the family request donations to the Les Shaw Jr. Memorial Scholarship Fund, c/o California Community Foundation, 221 S. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 or calfund.org.