John Shelley

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John Francis Shelley
John Shelley.jpg
35th Mayor of San Francisco
In office
January 8, 1964 – January 8, 1968
Preceded by George Christopher
Succeeded by Joseph Alioto
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from California's 5th district
In office
November 8, 1949 – January 7, 1964
Preceded by Richard J. Welch
Succeeded by Phillip Burton
Personal details
Born John Francis Shelley
(1905-09-03)September 3, 1905
San Francisco
Died September 1, 1974(1974-09-01) (aged 68)
San Francisco
Political party Democratic
Religion Roman Catholic

John Francis "Jack" Shelley (September 3, 1905 – September 1, 1974) was a U.S. politician. He served as the 35th mayor of San Francisco, from 1964 to 1968, the first Democrat elected to the office in 50 years, and the first in an unbroken line of Democratic mayors that lasts to the present (as of 2015).

Shelley earned a law degree from the University of San Francisco in 1932. He served in the United States Coast Guard during World War II and was a member of the California State Senate from 1938 to 1946. He ran an unsuccessful race for the Lieutenant Governor's office against Goodwin Knight in 1946. Shelley would then make his mark as a leader of the California delegation to the 1948 Democratic National Convention, when he would help marshal his state's votes to support a strong civil rights plank. Shelley entered the United States House of Representatives in 1949 and served until 1964, when he ran for mayor of San Francisco and won by a 12-point margin against his opponent, Harold Dobbs.

Relations with the FBI

Prior to his election as U.S. Congressman, Shelley was included in the FBI's Custodial Detention (DETCOM) files. The FBI's "Detcom program" "was concerned with the individuals 'to be given priority arrest in the event of ... an emergency.'" Priority under the Detcom program was given to "all top functionaries, all key figures, all individuals tabbed under the Comsab program", and "any other individual who, though he does not fall in the above groups, should be given priority arrest because of some peculiar circumstances".[1]

A memo by Warren Olney III alerted FBI Director Hoover to the fact that Shelley was recently elected and remained targeted, along with one other California congressman, to be arrested by the FBI as a security risk in case of a Soviet attack.[2] A July 23, 1962 FBI search slip on Shelley is check-marked for "subversive references only" and remains heavily redacted: with numerous unreleased documents.

Mayor of San Francisco

Shelley's term as mayor was filled with challenges, including strikes over discriminatory hiring practices against African-Americans at the Palace Hotel, a public nurse strike in 1966, and a threatened San Francisco Symphony Orchestra strike in 1967. Shelley was mayor during the Summer of Love, a time of radicalism in the Haight-Ashbury and turmoil throughout the city. The Black rage toward "Auto Row" on Van Ness Avenue. Shelley was faced with riots in Bayview-Hunters Point on September 27, 1966, after a white police officer fatally shot a black youth accused of auto theft. Shelley declared a state of emergency in the city for six days. After the riots ended, Shelley took several public steps to improve relations between city government and the African-American community. He appointed the city and county's first African-American supervisor, Terry Francois.

Shelley took an aggressive stance against several prominent anti-development mobilizations during his tenure, including movements in opposition to development at the Yerba Buena Gardens and in the Western Addition. Shelley bowed out of running for a second term in office; his stated reasons were health-related, but it was thought that prominent political forces in the city's establishment wanted a more stringently pro-development mayor in office.


Shelley's son, Kevin Shelley, was a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from 1990 to 1996, a member of the California State Assembly from 1997 to 2003 and served as California Secretary of State from 2003 to 2005.


  1. Supplementary Detailed Staff Reports On Intelligence Activities and the Rights of Americans, Book III, Final Report of the Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities. United States Senate. April 23 (under authority of the order of April 14), 1976. accessed 21 May 2010
  2. FBI File 100-356062, section 11, page 21.
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Richard J. Welch
United States Representative for the 5th Congressional District of California
Succeeded by
Phillip Burton
Political offices
Preceded by
George Christopher
Mayor of San Francisco
Succeeded by
Joseph Alioto