Walter Russell Shaw
Premier from 1959 to 1966
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WALTER R. SHAW WAS born on December 20, 1887 at West River on the farm originally settled by
his great-grandfather in 1806. He received his early education at Prince of Wales College in
Charlottetown, went on to the Nova Scotia Agricultural College at Truro and completed his
Bachelor of Science in Agriculture at the University of Toronto. Following his University
education, he returned to his native province and entered the farming industry where he earned a
reputation as a livestock breeder. He showed outstanding ability as a livestock judge, particularly
in the horse ring.
Mr. Shaw joined the Provincial Government of Agriculture and served in many capacities including Deputy Minister from 1934 to 1954. During his tenure of service, practically every reform and improvement in Island agriculture was influenced and launched under his direction. One outstanding program was Bovine Tuberculosis testing but mention must also be made of his work with junior farmers and the Rural Youth Training program.
He was responsible for the launching of the Prince Edward Island Federation of Agriculture and served as its General Secretary as well as a Director of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture. He established the Agricultural Council of the Province and was instrumental in organizing the Rural Development Council.
Walter Shaw entered politics in 1957 when he was named leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of the Province. He fought the General Election of 1959 and led his party to victory, carrying 22 of the 30 seats in the Provincial Legislature. He was then 71 years of age and it marked the first time in Canada that a past civil servant had won such a signal victory. With his election victory in 1959, Walter Shaw became the twenty-second Premier of Prince Edward Island, a post he held until 1966. He retired from politics in 1970, and died on May 29, 1981.
During Premier Shaw's administration, expansion was undertaken in many fields, including the food processing industry, the Regional High School system, the building of a new Provincial Administration Building, and a revamping of salary and employment conditions in the Provincial Civil Service.
During his lifetime, Walter Shaw received many honours. He was decorated by Royalty on three occasions, a Jubilee Medal in 1935, an M.B.E. and Citation in 1950 and a Coronation Medal. He also received Honorary Degrees from St. Dunstan's University and Mount Allison University and was also awarded the Canada Medal of Merit.
His wit and vast knowledge made him an entertaining lecturer and during Centennial Year, he was one of the Islanders in Residence at the University of Prince Edward Island. He had a great interest in the history of the province and served as a director of the Prince Edward Island Heritage Foundation.
Shaw is buried in the St. Catherine’s Pioneer Cemetery.