History Thursday: ’70s lawmaker gave docs a taste of their own medicine

By: - May 27, 2021 12:30 am

This photograph of the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio, was taken in the winter of 1931. Photo from OhioPix.org.

When Ohio lawmakers proposed raising medical school tuition back in 1971, a group of medical students took to the Statehouse to oppose the plan.

They came ready to testify against the bill, but as is often the case in Columbus, the hearing was delayed.

The students sat waiting for 90 minutes until Committee Chairman Robert Shaw finally entered the room. The 66-year-old Columbus Republican was apologetic, but responded with his trademark humor.

“Now you know how we feel when we have to wait in your offices all afternoon for medical attention,” he told them.

In his six years serving in the Ohio Senate, Shaw was indeed one of the most quotable legislators. However, he was not always concerned with the optics of his actions and statements.

In 1969, lawmakers were considering a $4.2 billion appropriations bill when Shaw made plans to hold a secret meeting of the Senate Finance Committee. When Shaw arrived, he was surprised to see nearly a dozen journalists waiting outside the door.

According to the Associated Press, Shaw then devised a plan to have fellow lawmakers sneak out of the Statehouse to meet elsewhere. He arranged for a private gathering inside the Ohio Petroleum Marketers Association’s offices located at the Neil House, a nearby hotel. (Besides his work as a lawmaker, Shaw worked as a private attorney and represented the association.)

Shaw learned the hard way it is sometimes difficult to outsmart the Statehouse press corps. Reporters noticed lawmakers heading across the street and witnessed one Republican in particular leaving the association’s office room.

The Senate Majority Leader caught wind of the imbroglio and told Shaw to leave the Neil House.

Reporters like transparency, but they also appreciate a good quote. Shaw often delivered.

In those days, the Ohio Supreme Court met inside the Statehouse’s Judiciary Annex. Justices put in a request to have State Highway Patrol protection inside their chambers.

This raised a few eyebrows among lawmakers, who privately complained about the court’s tendency to hold months long “working recesses.”

Shaw accused the justices of overworrying and watching too much Gunsmoke.

“What are they scared of?” he asked reporters. “Are they afraid a bomb will go off over there and wake some of them up?”



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Tyler Buchanan
Tyler Buchanan

Tyler Buchanan is an award-winning journalist who has covered Ohio politics and government for the past decade. A Bellevue native and graduate of Bowling Green State University, he most recently spent 6 1/2 years as a reporter and editor of The Athens Messenger and Vinton-Jackson Courier newspapers. He is a member of the BG News Alumni Society Board and was a 2019 fellow in the Kiplinger Program in Public Affairs Journalism.