James Shaw, Jr. – Hero to His Mother, His Alma Mater, His Community

Karen Shaw, left and her son, James Shaw Jr. at the reception honoring him at his alma mater, Tennessee State University.

By Clare Bratten

NASHVILLE, TN — Just in time for Mother’s Day week, James Shaw Jr. was honored in the presence of his parents Karen and James Sr. with a reception on Monday at Tennessee State University, his alma mater.

Tennessee State University President Glenda Glover, who was present at the reception honoring Shaw said in a statement. “The TSU family is extremely proud of alumnus James Shaw, Jr. for his bravery and courage. His actions saved the lives of many others.”

Karen Shaw’s reaction to the public accolades from politicians, community leaders and media at even the national level was one of “amazement.” 

“I spent some time just thinking about this in conversations with friends and my husband –  what it is about this terrible event that caused this reaction – being in the news nationally and even internationally? My son’s life was spared and for that I am completely grateful. I believe with all of the ugliness going on in the world people just needed something good to hang onto,” said Karen Shaw.

“Whether your beliefs are spiritually based – that James was covered and protected by God, which is my belief, or that he has a higher calling – this has really brought our community, the state of Tennessee, maybe even the U.S. or globally – where people gather around one message – helping others to survive.”

But as a mother to James, she also has concerns along with her appreciation of the outpouring of  support. That outpouring has included $240,000 in donations to a GoFundMe campaign James started to help the families of the victims of the shooting, and appearances on national cable TV news. Shaw was honored at a Nashville Predators game, and, appeared on the Ellen DeGeneres show where he met his sports hero Dwyane Wade who donated $20,000 to the Go Fund Me Campaign and received another $20,000 from the show’s sponsor Shutterfly. The Steve Harvey Show announced it planned to send him on a trip to Barbados.

In the world of politics, James Shaw Jr. was honored with a resolution at the state capitol by Tennessee legislators the day after the shooting calling him a hero “twice over” and Vice President Pence called him a ‘national hero.’

Still Karen Shaw shows the steady focus of a mother for the long term health and well being of her son after the trauma of the initial event.

“We are very appreciative of the attention and the opportunities that have come to James and are being offered to James. But at the end of the day, what I want is for my son’s emotional and mental health to be the same as it was on April 21st [the day before the Waffle House shooting].”

“When I saw him on CNN, I could see that he was re-living the event in his mind as he was talking about it. It is just unfair a stranger can come and ruin the lives of so many people and damage the lives of others who just happen to have been there. Not just for James but for anyone who was present.”   

“We all know about acute stress disorders, PTSD, and want to do our best to be sure he has the appropriate support. During this, I think he’s been so busy – there maybe hasn’t been time to work through it and even if we don’t want to ‘allow it’ to happen, we know it will happen.” 

“We have some supports in place and we are doing our best to be sure he has the appropriate means and support. That’s the best Mother’s Day I can have – making sure he comes out of it as a healthy human being mentally and emotionally.”

The accolades heaped on James Shaw Jr. may be gratifying to many, but to a family that seems to eschew publicity, his actions have only confirmed what they knew about the character and ethics of James Shaw Jr. And for Karen Shaw, that means cherishing and protecting her son’s well being.

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