Home>Articles>Charlotte McClave Shelley, part of legendary Cliffside Park political family, dies at 100

Charlotte McClave Shelley.

Charlotte McClave Shelley, part of legendary Cliffside Park political family, dies at 100

By David Wildstein, May 16 2020 4:34 pm

Before the Calabrese family began a seven-decade domination of Cliffside Park politics, the McClave family ran the Bergen County municipality.

Charlotte McClave Shelley, died on May 14 at age 100.

Two days before her death, her son, James Shelley, was re-elected to his third term on the Cliffside Park Board of Education.

Shelley’s grandfather, Stephen Wood McClave, was the third mayor of Cliffside Park and ran twice for Congress.

He challenged two-term Rep. William Hughes (D-Paterson) in 1910 and lost by a 52%-44% margin.  That was the year Democrat Woodrow Wilson was elected governor.

Hughes resigned from the House to become a judge in 1912 and then a few months later won a U.S. Senate seat.

McClave sought the open House seat 1912, running on the Republican ticket with President William Howard Taft.  He faced a split in the party when Leverett H. Sage, a Bergen County freeholder, ran for on the Progressive slate with Theodore Roosevelt.

The divided GOP allowed 68-year-old Lewis Martin to win the seat on a ticket with Wilson, the Democratic presidential candidate.

Martin had a long history in Sussex politics: between 1869 and 1903, he served as county clerk, Sussex Borough councilman, assemblyman, state senator, and county court judge (appointed by Wilson).

The seat went to Martin, who received 46.5% of the vote against McClave (25.6%) and Sage (21.4%).  Martin died two months after taking office.

Shelly’s father, B. Duncan McClave, served as a police judge in Cliffside Park and as the Bergen County Republican Chairman.  In 1926, he challenged three-term Rep. Randolph Perkins (R-Woodcliff Lake) in the Republican primary. Perkins was the “Dry” candidate who supported prohibition and had the endorsement of the “Anti-Saloon League,” while McClave was backed but the “Wet” faction of the GOP.

Perkins beat McClave by about 5,000 votes in a district that included Bergen, Passaic, Sussex and Warren counties.

In 1928, Duncan McClave was the campaign manager for Joseph Frelinghuysen, who was seeking to reclaim the U.S. Senate seat he lost to Democrat Edward Edwards six years earlier.

The Republican primary was won by Hamilton Fish Kean, the grandfather of former Gov. Thomas Kean.  He defeated former Gov. Edward Stokes by a 33.6%-28.6% margin.  Frelinghuysen came in third in a five-candidate field with 27.6%, but carried Bergen County by ten points.  Kean went on to unseat Edwards in the general election.

Shelly’s uncle was Roscoe P. McClave, a former Assembly Speaker who spent 44 years as the Bergen County engineer.  He was briefly the front runner for the 1943 Republican nomination for governor, but stepped aside when Walter Edge, a former governor, and U.S. Senator, decided to enter the race.    Roscoe McClave served six terms as the Republican State Committeeman from Bergen County.

Her great-grandfather was John McClave, who served as the New York City police commissioner in the 1880s.

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