Earl Snell, Governor

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Earl Willcox Snell

Birthdate: (52)
Death: 1947 (52)
Immediate Family:

Son of William Henry Snell and Mallie M. Snell

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Immediate Family

About Earl Snell, Governor


Earl Willcox Snell (July 11, 1895 – October 28, 1947) was an Oregon businessman American Republican politician, serving in the Oregon House of Representatives, as the Oregon Secretary of State, and as the 23rd Governor of Oregon.

Early life and business career

Snell was born on a farm near the small town of Olex, Gilliam County, Oregon. He received a public school education, and attended Oregon Institute of Technology without attaining a degree. After military service during World War I, he settled in Condon, where he married Edith Welshons, with whom he would have one son, and published the local newspaper.

He moved to Arlington, where he and a partner opened the successful automobile dealership which would be his principal livelihood the rest of his life. He later expanded his business interests to include ranching and banking.

Political career

After serving on the Arlington City Council, in 1926 he was elected to the first of four consecutive terms in the Oregon House of Representatives, his final term as Speaker. In the 1942 elections, in which Democrats in Oregon made considerable inroads, he successfully sought election as Oregon Secretary of State, resigning as Speaker to serve in that office from 1935 to 1943.

Prevented by a term limit from seeking another term as Secretary of State, Snell decided to challenge his own party's incumbent Gov. Charles A. Sprague in the Republican primary. He received strong support from the state automobile dealers association, and not only gained the nomination, but went on to be elected Governor with 78 percent of the vote, taking office on January 11, 1943.

Generally recognized as a moderate, Snell's administration was marked by conservationist measures, public works projects and relief programs in line with the federal New Deal programs, and initiatives designed to promote agricultural, timber and industrial interests with a view to expanding Oregon's economy. He overwhelmingly won reelection in 1946, by a margin of more than two to one, but died in office the next year.

Earl Snell was the uncle of "Tonight Show" band leader Carl "Doc" Hilden Severensen.


On October 28, 1947, Snell, Oregon Secretary of State Robert S. Farrell, Jr., State Senate President Marshall E. Cornett, were killed along with pilot Cliff Hogue when their small plane crashed in stormy weather southwest of Dog Lake in Lake County, Oregon. The group left Klamath Falls about 10:00 p.m. en route to a ranch owned by Oregon writer William Kittredge in Warner Valley near Lakeview, Oregon. A state funeral was held for Snell, Farrell and Cornett at the Capitol in Salem. Snell was buried in Salem's Belcrest Memorial Park.

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Earl Snell, Governor's Timeline

Age 52