(Charles) Wilbert Snow, Governor of Connecticut, 1946-1947

Governor Wilbert SnowBorn: April 6, 1884, St. George, Maine
College: Bowdoin, 1907; Columbia M.A., 1910
Political Party: Democrat
Offices: Lt. Governor, 1945-46
Died: September 28, 1977, Spruce Island, Maine

Although he was born Charles Wilbert Snow, most people knew him simply as Wilbert Snow. He was born on White Head Island at St. George, Maine, April 6, 1884, the son of Forest Alwin and Katherine Quinn Snow. At the age of 14 he left school to become a lobsterman and fisherman, but after three years, he returned to school and received an education that included an advanced degree from Columbia University.

After graduation he briefly worked as a teacher and reindeer agent in Alaska and then served as a First Lieutenant in the Army during World War I. When the war was over Snow taught as several colleges before he began a long career at Wesleyan University in Middletown where he advanced to the position of professor of English. On February 23, 1922 he married Jeanette Simmons of Rockland, Maine, and they had five children.

He also wrote numerous books, including many on poetry.

Snow developed an interest in politics early in his life and when he moved to Middletown he worked for the local Democratic organization. He served on its town committee, and was a member of the school board for over 30 years. In 1930 he ran for the Connecticut Senate, but lost. He did not seek public office again until 1944 when one faction of the state's Democratic leadership asked him to run for governor. Snow went to the state convention convinced that he had the support of the party's leaders only to learn that he was being used as leverage with another faction to get Brien McMahon nominated for the U.S. Senate. In this bargaining process former governor, Robert Hurley, won the nomination for governor and Snow was made the candidate for lieutenant governor. Because the two positions were then elected separately, Hurley lost to Raymond Baldwin in November while Snow won and served two years under a Republican governor. In 1946 Snow again sought to be the Democratic candidate for governor. Using the support of Connecticut's small towns and the skills of John Bailey, he was able to defeat Chester Bowles at the party's nominating convention. Snow had finally become a candidate for governor and Bailey soon became the new Democratic State Chairman, a position he would hold for 29 years.

One of the oddities of the 1946 gubernatorial race was that the Republicans nominated James McConaughy, a former president of Wesleyan and therefore once Snow's boss. Snow later wrote that he welcomed a more civilized form of rivalry. in a political campaign rather than the guttersnipe tactics. that were often associated with them. Civility aside, Snow was easily defeated in the November elections. However, Governor Baldwin had won two elections for the U.S. Senate that year.  One was the regular term that began in January of 1947. The second was to fill an unexpired term that ended in January. Because Baldwin wanted to gain seniority over other freshman Senators, he resigned as governor two weeks early to go to Washington. This made it possible for Snow to become governor of Connecticut, but only for thirteen days. -"Beneath the festive mood,"- Snow wrote when friends and neighbors congratulated him, -"I was pestered by a sense of futility."- Snow was a liberal who had longed to enact legislation regarding education, better pay for state employees, fair employment laws, and more. The only thing that he could do was to use the office for thirteen days as a media sounding board to push his favorite ideas.

Snow passed away on

He wrote in his autobiography " One New year's Day in the midsummer of my life I got to thinking of the coming on of life's winter and wrote the following. Let it be my parting salute.
 

NEW YEAR

Sad is the farewell of another year
When youth has passed the Tropics and must steer
Into the northern straits of chilling Age
Where icebergs loom to mock and spur the rage
That rises in us as we contemplate
Their monumental beauty, and the fate
That winnowed all our early dreams to dust;
We only say farewell because we must.
Currents of wind and tide are setting strong
Into the Arctic where the nights are long
And cold and deep, where resolution fails
To rouse us for a trek on icy trails,
And all ambitions merge themselves in one:
To chart the unbuoyed course behind the sun."
 

 

In 1950 Snow sought his party's nomination for the U.S. Senate, but the party leadership insisted that they needed a candidate who could help finance his own campaign. Even John Bailey told him, "You can't run a political organization without money." Snow continued to publish books and teach. He also helped form the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education and the Middlesex Community College. He worked for the U.S. State Department in 1~51-52, and served on the committee that created Connecticut’s 1965 Constitution. Snow died at the age of 93 at his summer home in Maine. The house that he lived in at Middletown still exists and is privately owned. The town's Snow Elementary School is named in his honor.

Bibliography

Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to United States Elections.  Washington, DC, Congressional Quarterly, 1994 [CSL call number GIS Ref JK 1967 .C662 1994.

Glashan, Roy R.  American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975.  Stillwater, MN, Croixside Press, 1975 [CSL call number JK 2447 .G53 1975].

Snow, Wilbert. Codline's Child:  The Autobiography of Wilbert Snow.  Middletown:  Wesleyan University Press, 1974.

Sobel, Robert and John Raimo.  Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978.  Westport, CT:  Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Reference E 176 .B573].

Van Dusen, Albert E.  Connecticut.  New York:  Random House, 1961 [CSL call number History Reference F 94 .V3].

Portrait

34” x 35” in its frame, painted by Robert Brackman after Governor Snow left office and received at the State Library in October of 1948. It is believed that the painting is smaller than the others of this period because the Legislature did not provide as much compensation to the artist for a governor who only served thirteen days.

Originally prepared by David O. White, Museum of Connecticut History, Connecticut State Library.  Edited and revised by CSL Staff, January 2002.

Bibliography

Congressional Quarterly’s Guide to United States Elections.  Washington, DC:  Congressional Quarterly, 1994 [CSL call number GIRS Ref JK 1967 .C662 1994].

Crofut, Florence S. Marcy.  Guide to the History and the Historic Sites of Connecticut.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 1937 [CSL call number History Reference F 94 .C88 1937].

"Cross Elected Governor - Republicans Are Leading For Other State Offices." Hartford Courant, Nov. 5, 1930, pg 1; digital images, Historical Hartford Courant 1923-1984 ( http://www.il.proquest.com/ : 1 May 2008).

Cross, Wilbur Lucius. Connecticut Yankee: An Autobiography. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1943 [CSL call number F 100 .C7 A3 1943a].

Davidson, Eugene A.  “A Cross for Connecticut.”  Outlook and Independent. New York: The Outlook Company, Vol. 157 (January 14, 1931) 62-64, 74 [CSL call number Z9999 .O98].

"Flags Dipped in State to Honor Cross." Hartford Courant, Oct. 6, 1948, pg 1; digital images, Historical Hartford Courant 1923-1984 (http://www.il.proquest.com/ : 17 April 2008).

Glashan, Roy R.  American Governors and Gubernatorial Elections, 1775-1975.  Stillwater, MN: Croixside Press, 1975 [CSL call number JK 2447 .G53 1975].

Marsh, William John.  The Man With a Million Friends, Wilbur L. Cross.  New Milford, CT:  Marsh Bros., 1934 [CSL call number LD 6331.C7 M3 1934].

Murray, Sister Mary. “Connecticut's Depression Governor: Wilbur L. Cross.” Connecticut History. New Haven, CT: Association for the Study of Connecticut History, 16 (August 1975), 44-64 [CSL call number F 91 .C668].

Sobel, Robert and John Raimo.  Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978.  Westport, CT:  Meckler Books, 1978 [CSL call number GIRS Ref E 176 .B573].

State Archives Record Group 005:026, Office of the Governor, Wilbur L. Cross, 1931-1939. 

State Archives Record Group 069:096, Wilbur L. Cross Papers, 1914-1949.

Van Dusen, Albert E.  Connecticut.  New York:  Random House, 1961 [CSL call number History Reference F 94 .V3].

Woodbury, Robert L.  “Wilbur Cross:  New Deal Ambassador to a Yankee Culture.”  New England Quarterly. Boston: The New England Quarterly, Inc., Vol. 41 (September, 1968). Available through JSTOR.

Portrait

45” x 55” in its frame, painted in 1932 by Charles L. Hopkinson, although it was not put on display until December of 1938.