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James Shaw: Brightwood College Electrical Technician Graduate to Waffle House Hero

Waffle House Hero James Shaw at Brightwood College in Nashville.

On April 22, 2018, in the early hours of the morning, a mass shooting occurred at a Waffle House in Nashville, Tenn. Four people were killed in the attack, and two more were injured. Fortunately, before the shooter could claim any more victims, he was wrestled to the ground and stripped of his weapon by an unarmed customer, 29-year-old James Shaw Jr.

Shortly thereafter Shaw was dubbed the Waffle House Hero. He has answered countless questions about his actions that morning but remains humble and honest, claiming that anyone could do what he did. However, spectators and media alike remain in awe of Shaw’s heroic response to a terrifying situation.

Practically overnight, Shaw became a household name. He has appeared on national television, received awards and other recognition. He has raised over $240,000 with his GoFundMe campaign for victims of the shooting.

However, despite the media frenzy and sudden fame, Shaw maintains that he is just a regular guy. In fact, before the incident, having earned his Electrical Technician diploma from Brightwood College in Nashville, Shaw was working for AT&T and leading a fairly ordinary life.

Electrical Technician Training

Prior to the shooting, Shaw’s story may have sounded familiar to a lot of people. Seeking a new career path, Shaw attended Brightwood College in hopes of pursuing a career as an electrical technician. Upon graduating, he took a job as a wire technician for AT&T, where he worked diligently to put his electrical technician training to use and hone his trade.

Before enrolling at Brightwood College, Shaw spent years expanding his knowledge in the electrical tech field on his own, having developed an interest in the industry long before deciding to pursue formal electrical technician training.

“I’ve been working in the field since I was 18,” says Shaw. “But really, I’ve been destroying stuff and putting it back together since I was a little kid. I would take stuff apart and just hope I could reassemble it.”

Despite years of experience in the field and an Electrical Engineering degree from Tennessee State University, Shaw decided to attend Brightwood College both to expand his expertise and also to be able to better support his daughter.

“I went back to school at Brightwood College to keep my mind busy and engaged — I didn’t want my mind to stop churning and learning,” he says. “I wanted to get a new education so that I could put that on my résumé and better support my family and little girl.”

Having made the courageous decision to continue his education, Shaw quickly found a supportive community among his peers and instructors.

“Most of us Brightwood College students are older, so when we go school, it’s not the traditional college path,” says Shaw. “People that go to Brightwood College have made a very conscious decision to go to college. They’ve told themselves, ‘I can do better,’ and they take it very seriously. It was really nice to be in small classes, in an environment where everybody knows your name.”

He admits that earning his diploma was a lot of work. Shaw remembers working toward his Electrical Technician diploma from Brightwood College while also working for AT&T and managing his own company, Imount Electric. Following graduation, he has continued to use his electrical technician knowledge to assist AT&T customers in installing internet, television and phone connections in their homes.

Life After the Waffle House Shooting

Following the shooting, Shaw has taken a step back from his role at AT&T in order to recover and stabilize after the incident — and he admits that he’s not sure what’s next.

However, he remains grateful for the opportunities he has had as an electrical technician with AT&T. Shaw says that working with the company has certainly been rewarding, reflecting on the dedicated team he had the privilege of working alongside.

One thing is for sure, the sky is the limit for Shaw as he moves forward after what has proven to be a truly life-changing turn of events.

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