Scope and Content
Title: John Francis "Jack" Shelley Collection,
Date (inclusive): 1905-1974
Accession number: 1992/020
Shelley, John Francis
Extent: 27 cubic feet
San Francisco State University. Labor Archives & Research Center
San Francisco, California 94132
Shelf location: For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Center's online catalog.
Collection is open for research.
Copyright has not been assigned to the Labor Archives & Research Center. All requests for
permission to publish or quote from materials must be submitted in writing
to the Director of the Archives. Permission for publication is given on behalf
of the Labor Archives & Research Center as the owner of the physical items and is not intended
to include or imply permission of the copyright holder, which must also be
obtained by the reader.
[Identification of item], John Francis "Jack" Shelley Collection, 1992/020, Labor Archives & Research Center,
San Francisco State University.
The John F. Shelley collection was donated to the Labor Archives in March 1992 by
his widow, Thelma Shelley. The material was transferred to the Archives by Lynn Bonfield
and Leon Sompolinsky. Upon the donor's request photocopies were made of bound material
pulled together by the Library of Congress Congressional Information Service covering
Shelley's career in the United States Congress and the originals were returned. The collection
was processed in late 1992 and early 1993 by Leon Sompolinsky.
Jack Shelley was born in San Francisco on September 3, 1905, the eldest of nine
children in a working class, Irish Catholic family. Raised and educated in the city, Shelley
made his first of many trips at sea after graduating from grammar school. Sailing and the
shipping industry remained a passion of his for the rest of his life. While attending Mission
High School, he regularly shipped out summers as a member of the Sailors' Union of the
Pacific. He continued this practice while attending St. Ignatius College (later the University of
San Francisco Law School) where he played varsity football and continued to work part time
in a steamship office. The economic necessities of supporting a large family forced him to
drop out of school after two years, when he had the opportunity to ship as a purser, eventually
becoming a licensed officer. After various trips, he was able to locate employment at home as
a bakery wagon drive during the day, allowing him to continue the study of law at night. In
1932 he received his law degree from the University of San Francisco and rather than enter the
legal profession he chose to continue working with the bakery wagon drivers' union as a
While serving as an official of the Teamster Bakery Wagon Drivers and Salesmen
Union, Local 484, in 1937 Shelley became the youngest President of the San Francisco Labor
Council at the age of 31. He remained President of the Council until 1948 when he served for
two years as Secretary-Treasurer. From 1947 to 1950 he also served as the President of the
California State Federation of Labor.
Shelley's political career began in 1938 when he was elected State Senator for San
Francisco for two consecutive terms. While in Sacramento, Shelley sponsored and supported
welfare and labor legislation including improving care for the aged, improvements in the
workmen's compensation laws, disability insurance reform,
apprenticeship opportunities for youths, and the outlawing of loan sharks. Shelley also
advocated returning control of the Port of San Francisco back to the city. He spearheaded
appropriations for the purchase of the Lake Merced site of San Francisco State College and for
the completion of the Cow Palace. In 1946, he was defeated by Goodwin Knight for
Lieutenant Governor of California.
In 1949, Shelley won a special election to fill the vacancy for the Fifth District
Congressional seat to the United States House of Representatives, a position he held until 1964
when he defeated Supervisor Harold Dobbs in an election for Mayor of San Francisco. From
1968 until his death in 1974, he served San Francisco as the city's lobbyist in Sacramento.
Throughout Shelley's public career, he mediated between business and labor interests, and
between conservative and progressive unionism. He took great pride in settling labor-management disputes
without resorting to the use of strikes. He stood for unity within the
labor movement before the merger of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress on
Industrial Organizations. His career spanned the period from "new deal" to "great society"
Scope and Content
Contents of the collection are primarily newspaper clipping scrapbooks and files maintained by
Shelley's office staff and provided by a professional clipping service. Newspapers represented
include the San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner and Call-Bulletin, the Sacramento Bee and as
well as a number of neighborhood and ethnic publications. (A full list of publications can be
found in Addendum A.) Additionally the collection contains campaign literature and ballots,
photocopies of private and public bills sponsored by Shelley and Congressional Record
speeches and inserts pulled together by the Library of Congress Congressional Information