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Finding Aid to the John F. "Jack" Shelley Papers, 1953-1967 (bulk 1964-1967)
SFH 10  
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Collection Details
Table of contents What's This?
  • Access
  • Publication Rights
  • Provenance
  • Preferred Citation
  • Materials Transferred
  • Related Materials
  • Related Archival Materials
  • Biographical and Historical Note
  • Scope and Contents
  • Arrangement

  • Title: John F. "Jack" Shelley Papers
    Date (inclusive): 1953-1967
    Date (bulk): 1964-1967
    Collection Identifier: SFH 10
    Creator: Shelley, John F., (John Francis), 1905-1974
    Physical Description: 8 cubic feet (11 boxes, 1 map folder)
    Contributing Institution: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library
    100 Larkin Street
    San Francisco, CA 94102
    (415) 557-4567
    Abstract: The collection documents the one-term administration of San Francisco Mayor John F. ("Jack") Shelley during the years 1964-1968.
    Physical Location: The collection is stored onsite.
    Language of Materials: Collection materials are in English.


    The collection is open for research, with photographs available during Photo Desk hours. Please call the San Francisco History Center for hours and information at 415-557-4567.

    Publication Rights

    Copyright has been assigned to the San Francisco Public Library. All requests for permission to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted in writing to the City Archivist. Permission for publication is given on behalf of the San Francisco Public Library as the owner of the physical items and the copyright.


    This collection has been received in three accessions. The first accession, received prior to 1995, was transferred from City Hall; this is the bulk of the collection. A second accession was received from the University of the Pacific in 2018. This consisted of real estate transfers and correspondence. The third accession was received from the estate of John H. Anderson in 2019. This covered urban renewal matters including Yerba Buena Center.

    Preferred Citation

    [Identification of item], John F. "Jack" Shelley Papers (SFH 10), San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

    Materials Transferred

    Photographs (Box 8) have been transferred to the San Francisco Historical Photograph Collection.
    The monograph, 128 Hours: A Report of the Civil Disturbance in the City & County of San Francisco, was transferred to the book collection of the San Francisco Public Library.

    Related Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the San Francisco History Center's subject and biographical files and manuscript collection, and to check the catalog holdings of the San Francisco Public Library for related materials.

    Related Archival Materials

    Researchers are encouraged to see also the John Francis "Jack" Shelley Collection housed at the Labor Archives, San Francisco State University. Included are 17 cubic feet of mayoral papers, mostly scrapbooks and newspaper clippings, and one box of mayoral speeches.

    Biographical and Historical Note

    John Francis "Jack" Shelley was born to Dennis Shelley, a longshoreman and Irish immigrant, and Mary Casey Shelley, on Sept. 3, 1905, the oldest of nine children. Reared in the Mission District, he was a leader at Mission High School. Because of his size, tall and lanky, he worked as a merchant marine while still in school. He received his law degree from the University of San Francisco in 1932, driving a bakery truck during the day and playing varsity football in between classes and work. After college, Shelley worked as a business agent for the bakery wagon drivers union. During World War II, he served as an officer in the Coast Guard. At 31, Shelley became the youngest president of the San Francisco Labor Council in 1937, serving in that post until 1948 when he became Secretary-Treasurer. He was also president of the State Federation of Labor from 1947 to 1950. Shelley married Genevieve Giles in 1932 and had a daughter, Joan-Marie Shelley. His first wife died in 1952. In 1953, he married Thelma Smith, his secretary, with whom he had two children, Kathleen and Kevin. Kevin Shelley would later follow his father's political footsteps, serving as a San Francisco supervisor, state assemblyman, and Secretary of State.
    His political career began with two terms in the State Senate, from 1938 to 1946. In 1946, Shelley unsuccessfully ran for Lieutenant Governor of California against Goodwin Knight. Elected to the U.S. Congress in 1949, he served fifteen years as a respected representative and was a member of the powerful Committee on Appropriations.
    Shelley became mayor of his beloved San Francisco in 1964 with a 12 percent margin over then-Supervisor Harold S. Dobbs, and the support of labor unions and the Democrats. He was the first Democratic mayor in 50 years. Shelley ran for re-election in 1967 but withdrew at the last minute due to health concerns, although he was reportedly pushed out for a more pro-development candidate. Joseph Alioto replaced him and prevailed in the election. In 1968, Mayor Alioto appointed Shelley as the state legislative representative, a job he held until his death.
    During Shelley's tenure, San Francisco's problems included poverty, racial discrimination, aging housing and physical plant, changes in the city's economic structure including the loss of blue-collar jobs, and a shrinking middle-class with many whites moving to the suburbs, as well as inadequate housing for blacks who came to work in the shipyards during World War II, many still living in temporary housing in Hunters Point. Meanwhile, the Western Addition had already undergone the wrecking ball of redevelopment in the A-1 area beginning in 1957, dislocating thousands of blacks to Hunters Point, the Tenderloin, and the Western Addition's A-2 area, the next target of the Redevelopment Agency.
    Called a "crisis mayor," Shelley was faced with strikes over discriminatory hiring practices against blacks at the Palace Hotel and "Auto Row" shortly after taking office. He played a key role in negotiating settlements then, and later with the public nurses' strike in 1966 and the 1967 symphony orchestra arbitration. On Sept. 27, 1966, riots broke out in Hunters Point following the fatal shooting by a white police officer of a black youth suspected of car theft. The mayor banned the use of dogs and tear gas and organized black youth from the community to help keep the peace. The state of emergency lasted six days. He said he recognized the violence as a measure of frustration with the underlying problems of discrimination, and he took steps to improve education, training, recreation, and jobs for those in poverty areas.
    Shelley established the Human Rights Commission and launched a 2500-unit expansion of public housing. In his inaugural speech, he said he was approaching redevelopment with a "heart as well as a bulldozer." New redevelopment plans were approved in the Western Addition, South of Market, and Hunters Point districts as residents organized in opposition, demanding adequate relocation housing. Meanwhile, Shelley vetoed a Board of Supervisors' vote against plans to build Yerba Buena Center in 1966, and vetoed another Board vote in October, 1967, to stop demolition in A-2.
    Under Shelley, the city joined the Association of Bay Area Regional Government (ABAG), a regional planning agency, and he unsuccessfully promoted a regional form of government. Considerable work was accomplished on the design of Market Street, soon to be remodeled with underground transit. Shelley fought to retain the Naval shipyards and the city's watershed areas.
    Shelley made five appointments to the Board of Supervisors including Terry Francois, the city's first African American supervisor. However, he found himself opposing them on key decisions. His appointments to top administrative jobs were applauded, and his genial personality, frankness, honesty, intelligence, and humanity were consistently upheld. At the same time, he was criticized as a mayor for being indecisive when timely action was required.
    John Shelley died Sept. 1, 1974, in San Francisco at the age of 68, after a dedicated career fighting for the economic welfare and personal freedoms of individuals and the betterment of San Francisco. Upon hearing of Shelley's passing, Mayor Alioto called him "a champion of the working people all his life."

    Scope and Contents

    This collection documents the one-term administration of Mayor John F. (Francis) "Jack" Shelley during the years of 1964-1968. Urban renewal and building the city are the main areas represented.
    Materials include internal as well as constituent correspondence, reports, surveys, minutes, strategy and policy memoranda and notes, articles and editorials, government documents, and reference material. Subjects include Market Street development, redevelopment of Western Addition Area 2 (A-2), the proposed City Demonstration Program in Hunters Point, regional planning, an underground freeway along the northern waterfront, the Sheraton Palace strike, and the Serra house in Mallorca, Spain.
    The Legislative and Issue Files series is organized by staff member. Staff included a Coordinator for Housing and Planning Development, later called Deputy for Development; an Urban Renewal Coordinator, later called Assistant Deputy for Development; a Deputy for Social Services; and a Deputy for Public Service.
    Some gaps exist. There is little constituent correspondence; very few speeches, press releases, newspaper clippings, and biographical and campaign material; and no calendar files. Missing are Workable Program for Community Involvement files, other than the 1965 report and 1967 certificate. Neither property tax assessment reform nor the 1967 symphony orchestra labor dispute and 1966 public nurses strike are represented. The only records of the Hunters Point riots following the killing of a black youth by a white police officer are Shelley's statement on Sept. 29, 1966 (in John Anderson's City Demonstration Program file, 4 of 4); his speech to the Board of Supervisors (Oct. 3, 1966), and the monograph, 128 Hours: A Report of the Civil Disturbance in the City & County of San Francisco, which was transferred to the library's book collection.
    Some items without specific reference to San Francisco have been removed. Researchers are encouraged to see also the History Center's Biographical and Subject Files such as Districts, Freeways, Humans Rights Commission, and Riots, as well as other mayoral papers, as some related materials are housed there.


    The material has been organized into four series: Series 1. Legislative and Issue Files; Series 2. Press and Speeches; Series 3. Public Services; and Series 4. Campaigns. The Legislative and Issue Files series is further organized into subseries by staff member. Series are arranged alphabetically by subject, except for Campaigns, which is arranged chronologically, with Shelley's campaigns first. Folders are in alphabetical order by folder title, and then by date. Within folders, materials are filed chronologically.

    Subjects and Indexing Terms

    Shelley, John F., (John Francis), 1905-1974 -- Archives.
    City planning districts--California--San Francisco.
    City planning--California--San Francisco.
    Housing policy--California--San Francisco.
    Housing--California--San Francisco.
    Labor disputes--California--San Francisco.
    Labor unions--California--San Francisco.
    Mayors--California--San Francisco.
    Metropolitan government--California--San Francisco Bay Area.
    Regional planning--California--San Francisco Bay Area.
    Riots--California--San Francisco--1966.
    San Francisco (Calif.)--Politics and government--20th century.
    San Francisco Bay Area (Calif.)--Politics and government--20th century.
    Urban policy--California--San Francisco.
    Urban renewal--California--San Francisco.