Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oregon Republican League: History 104 Biographies

Every Wednesday, the Oregon Republican League will post the biographies of important figures, in the League's/State of Oregon's history. Feel free to comment or share stories of your family's Republican affiliation.

Governor Elmo Smith
Biographical Note

Elmo E. Smith was governor from February 1, 1956 to January 14, 1957.

Elmo Everett Smith was born on November 19, 1909 near Grand Junction, Colorado, to Wilmer E. and Katie (Mohler) Smith. He had four sisters and two brothers. He grew up on an uncle's ranch near Wilder, Idaho, after his mother and father died when he was 10 and 13, respectively. After he worked his way through the College of Idaho and received a B.A. in History in 1932, he moved to Ontario, Oregon. In 1933 Smith married Dorothy Leininger of Fayette, Idaho. He established himself as a newspaper owner and publisher. Voters twice elected him Mayor of Ontario before World War II. He resigned as Mayor in 1943 to enlist in the navy. After two years in the South Pacific, where he commanded a naval air transport base, he returned to Ontario and once again was elected mayor.

In 1948 Smith was elected to the Oregon Senate, representing Grant, Harney and Malheur counties. By that time he had sold his Ontario newspaper and purchased the John Day Blue-Mountain Eagle and an interest in the Madras Pioneer. As senator, he pushed hard for an equitable weight-mile tax for highway usage, and secured its passage in the legislature and approval by the voters in a referendum, defeating the trucking and logging interests who opposed it. He chaired the Roads and Highways Committee after Paul Patterson became Governor. In 1955 he was elected President of the Senate.

Patterson's death in 1956 elevated Smith to the governorship. Almost immediately he began a campaign to retain the office, and although he won the Republican primary easily, he lost to Democrat Robert Holmes in the general election, by a vote of 361,840 to 369.439. After leaving the governorship, Smith expanded his publishing activities, purchasing the Albany Democrat-Herald and several smaller weeklies. He sought office again upon the death of United States Senator Richard Neuberger, but lost to Neuberger's widow, Maureen. In 1964 Smith failed in his effort to become Republican National Committeeman; instead he was selected State Chairman of the Republican Party. Smith died of cancer on July 15, 1968 in Albany, and was buried in Willamette Memorial Park Mausoleum.

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