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I must be getting soft in my old age because I started getting weepy at Wednesday's City Council memorial to Bill Shaw.
He was, of course, the twin brother of Bob Shaw, the former Ninth Ward alderman, who was sitting in the front of the council, wiping tears from his eyes, as his former colleagues rose one by one to pay tribute to his brother, who died last month of cancer.
It's not that the Shaw brothers and I had any deep or abiding relationship -- in fact, I doubt Bob Shaw would recognize me if we passed in the street. But they were a couple of colorful, political pirates and over the years I've enjoyed writing about their legendary bare-knuckled battles against everyone from Congressman Jesse Jackson to Reverend James Meeks.
At the City Council, many of the memories had to do with Bob, the brother the aldermen knew best. Alderman Ike Carothers, who represents Austin, noted that the Shaws originally "hailed from the west side. And we know that the west side is the best side." Richard Mell joked that he never had any trouble telling the identical twins apart because -- "Bill was the good-looking brother." Helen Shiller raised some eyebrows when she said, "The best story I have I will save for another day." Alderman Sandi Jackson, Congressman Jackson's wife, offered her respects, wryly noting that "It's no secret that the Jacksons and Shaws have been involved in epic battles." Finally, Ninth Ward alderman Anthony Beale spoke. In 1999 Beale, backed by Meeks, first won his seat back by defeating Herbert Shaw, Bob Shaw's son.
Beale took a good-natured shot at Carothers -- "If the west side was the best side, they'd have stayed there," and then thanked the Shaws for teaching him the ins and outs of Chicago politics. "I don't think anybody knew the Shaw brothers more than me," he said. "You knew you were in a battle when you battled the Shaw brothers."
Amen to that.