Snell began his political career in 1927 when he was elected state representative. He remained in the Legislative Assembly until 1934, when he left his position as Speaker of the House to take the elected position of Secretary of State. He served as Secretary of State from 1934 to 1942, when he was elected Oregon's 23rd governor. Governor Snell was re-elected in 1946 and served until Oct. 28, 1947, when he was killed in a plane crash in the wild terrain east of Klamath Falls along with Secretary of State Robert S. Farrell Jr., President of the Senate Marshall E. Cornett and pilot Cliff Hogue.
In addition to his environmental legacy, Snell campaigned for old-age relief without increasing taxation; post-war aid in education; home ownership; and liberalization of unemployment compensation. Governor Snell emphasized improving winter travel by developing and improving roads and resorts. He wanted Oregon to be the winter wonderland for vacationers, and expand tourism to become more than a summer industry. A state employees' retirement system was also adopted during Snell's tenure as governor.
Snell was vitally interested in Oregon's forests and the problems facing the state in managing forest lands, including the effects of the 1933 Tillamook Burn, which devastated 240,000 acres.
He charged a Special Forestry Committee with the responsibility of making a complete survey and analysis of Oregon's forestry program, with emphasis on the Tillamook burn, fire prevention and reforestation. The lumber industry consistently occupied first or second place in the commercial activities of the state's economy and Oregon's forestry laws and policies were recognized as outstanding in the nation.
The Keep Oregon Green committee, established in 1940, continued to serve as the Oregon Forestry Department's de facto publicity agency for forest fire safety and prevention.
The End of World War II
Governor Snell expressed the
relief and hope that
Oregonians shared at
the final defeat
of Hitler and Nazi Germany. On May 8, 1945 he proclaimed Victory
in Europe Day, otherwise known as "V.E. Day." This proclamation called for a period of "prayerful thanksgiving and determined rededication" to peace.
The final allied victory of World War II was secured a few months later with the defeat of Japan. On August 14, 1945 Governor Snell proclaimed August 15 and 16 as Victory Days, on the announcement of final victory for the Allies, and ordered all public buildings, state stores and agencies closed. His proclamation expressed hope for a lasting peace throughout the world and welcomed returning veterans.