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Charles Wilbert Snow

charles wilbert snow
Charles Wilbert "Bill" Snow April 6, 1884 – September 28, 1977 was an American poet, educator and politician He served as the 75th Governor of Connecticut He generally went by the name Wilbert or Bill Snow, or formally as C Wilbert Snow


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Educator
  • 4 Politician
  • 5 Later life
  • 6 Death and legacy
  • 7 Published works
  • 8 References
  • 9 Further reading
  • 10 External links

Early lifeedit

Snow was born on Whitehead Island, Maine He grew up in Whitehead Island and in neighboring Spruce Head Village At the age of 14, Snow left school to become a lobster fisherman; he returned to school three years later after moving to Thomaston, Maine After graduating, he began teaching in a one-room elementary school while studying at Bowdoin College Bowdoin's President, William Dewitt Hyde helped Snow attain the scholarship he needed to finance his studiescitation needed At Bowdoin, Snow was on the debate team and editor of "The Quill", the campus literary magazine


Snow earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin in 1907, receiving Phi Beta Kappa honors He obtained a one-year replacement appointment teaching debate and public speaking at New York University He enrolled at Columbia University where he obtained his master's degree in 1910, using Bowdoin's first Longfellow Fellowship1 One of Smith's students was Carl Van Doren, to whom he introduced the works of Herman Melville, then in total obscurity Van Doren, in turn, became responsible for the national rediscovery of Melville But Snow rebelled at the rigid academic degree progression and told Ashley Horace Thorndike head of Columbia's English Department that the PhD "was a German invention designed to turn an art into a science" He never took his doctorate

Snow returned to Bowdoin as temporary instructor of debate and English From there it was on to Williams College for another one year temporary appointment One of his favorite students was James Phinney Baxter III who shared Snow's disdain for the academic rigamarole and nearly got tossed out as a result Some 25 years later, Baxter returned to Williams as President At the end of that year he was hired to teach debate and English at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio Snow's political views were very far left for the period It took the President of Miami only ten days to decide he talked "too plainly with undergraduates about politics and religion" and ask him to leave

Snow was saved at that point by an invitation by a former Bowdoin friend to become an Eskimo teacher and reindeer agent in Alaska, which he did from 1911 to 1912 He spent the following six months campaigning for Woodrow Wilson in Maine and then the next six giving lectures on Alaska At that point he received an appointment to the faculty at the University of Utah where he spent two stormy years because of his political views opposing the reelection of Mormon Apostle Reed Smoot as United States Senator and support of Academic Freedom more generally While at Utah, he induced future historian Bernard DeVoto to transfer to Harvard University From there, after six months of writing, he went on to another temporary appointment to the faculty of Indiana University

With the opening of World War I, Snow enthusiastically signed up with the Army and eventually became an artillery captain at the Army's artillery training center at Louisville, Kentucky He was never sent overseas and worked to get a quick release after the Armistice to accept a temporary position at Reed College He married Jeanette Simmons on February 23, 1922 They had five sons; Charles Wilbert, John Forest, Nicholas, Stephen, and Gregory Elisha


Snow's friend Homer Woodbridge was then teaching at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut and managed to get Snow an offer to take charge of the debating program and teach freshman English It nearly didn't happen when someone wrote President William Arnold Shanklin that Snow was too far to the left of center for his aggressive support of the League of Nations Snow was called east by Shanklin, but "survived the interrogation"

With a new appointment firmly in hand, Snow married Jeannette Simmons and planned a delayed honeymoon in Europe for the summer of 1922 When they returned, he had a copy of James Joyce's newly released Ulysses hidden in his luggage Hidden because Ulysses had been "banned" in America ahead of its actual publication Snow always asserted, with some logic because of the dates involved, that he had "smuggled the first copy of Ulysses into the United States"

While Snow "survived" at Wesleyan, the early years were a tough go for the same reason previous positions had; his leftist politics The things that really saved him was Wesleyan having two presidents and two acting presidents during his first three years That and the impression Snow made on students both as debating coach and as founder of The Cardinal, still Wesleyan's literary magazine He was also aided with the administration by attracting two campus visits by his friend Carl Sandburg whom he always claimed to have "taught" the difference between poetry and the ballads Sandburg was already expert at and by the publication of his first book of poetry, Maine Coast, which so impressed Acting President Stephen H Olin that he said to the Wesleyan trustees "The man who wrote these poems cannot be evil" Ultimately Wesleyan's new President, James L McConaughy, who had been a friend of Snow's since they taught together at Williams, faced down the Chairman of the Board who threatened to resign if Snow wasn't fired for his stumping for presidential candidate Robert La Follette, and eventually made peace

On March 26, 1925, Snow was asked to be a speaker at a public dinner for the 50th birthday of poet Robert Frost, whom he had never met before The two became fast friends and Frost spent several long sojourns at Wesleyan, conversing with students around the dinner table and fireplace in Snow's home One of these was Lawrence Thompson who later became Frost's principal biographer Following Snow's retirement from Wesleyan in 1952, he was a Visiting Professor at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges and induced Frost to come South to work with the students there Frost and Snow continued to meet regularly and to share private critiques of each other's poetry up until Frost's death in 1963, only a couple of weeks after their last meeting


Soon after settling in Middletown, Snow became involved in local Democratic Party politics and eventually state politics as an ally of Governor Wilbur Cross, retired Dean of Yale University In 1944 there was a move to nominate Snow for governor, but it came apart at the convention and he was nominated for lieutenant governor on a ticket headed by former Governor Robert Hurley Hurley lost badly to Wesleyan graduate Raymond E Baldwin, but Snow took the post of lieutenant governor Two years later he took the gubernatorial nomination from Chester Bowles and Thomas Dodd in a last minute surprise that left The Hartford Courant with a first page headline that read: "Bowles Nominated The Professor Slinks Back to the Cloistered Halls of Wesleyan" He ended up losing to then Wesleyan President James L McConaughy in an unusually gentlemanly race Governor Baldwin had won the race for the US Senate over former Governor Cross, and resigned as governor on December 27, 1946 That gave Snow thirteen days to serve as governor before McConaughey's inauguration on January 8, 19472 His last effort in state politics was a run for the US Senate in 1950

Later lifeedit

Snow also became president on the Connecticut Association Board of Education in 1940 In 1947 the Wesleyan University class of 1927 as their 20th reunion gift to their university provided the funds to their then aged professor to write his autobiography After much work and effort he completed his autobiography published as "Codline's Child" named after the midwife who had birthed him, his parents being unable to afford bringing a doctor out to White Head Island Wesleyan University also published Snow's "Collected Poems" in 1963 He was a delegate to Connecticut state constitutional convention 2nd District, 19653

Snow served as educational commissioner and chairman of the Middletown Board of Education for over 30 years An elementary school in Middletown is named for Wilbert Snow He also played a major role in founding the Middlesex Community College

Death and legacyedit

Snow died at Spruce Head, Knox County, Maine, on September 28, 1977, aged 93 years, 175 days He is interred at Ocean View Cemetery, South Thomaston, Knox County, Maine

His great-grandson is writer Ross Douthat4

Published worksedit

  • Maine Coast, 1923
  • The Inner Harbor, 1926
  • Down East, 1932
  • Selected Poems, 1935
  • Before the Wind prior to 1957
  • Maine Tides prior to 1957
  • Sonnets to Steve and Other Poems, 1957 5
  • Collected Poems, 1963
  • Codline's Child, 1974
  • Spruce Head, 1959


  1. ^ "Charles Wilbert Snow" National Governors Association Retrieved 17 December 2012 
  2. ^ "Charles Wilbert Snow" Connecticut State Library Archived from the original on 29 October 2013 Retrieved 17 December 2012 
  3. ^ "Charles Wilbert Snow" The Political Graveyard Retrieved 17 December 2012 
  4. ^ https://mobiletwittercom/douthatnyt/status/621742212955553793
  5. ^ Sonnets to Steve, Expostion Press, 1957

Further readingedit

  • Sobel, Robert and John Raimo Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978 Greenwood Press, 1988 ISBN 0-313-28093-2
  • Snow, Wilbert Codline's Child, The Autobiography of Wilbert Snow, Wesleyan University Press, 1974

External linksedit

  • The Political Graveyard
  • National Governors Association
  • Connecticut State Library
  • Charles Wilbert Snow at Find a Grave

Political offices
Preceded by
William L Hadden
Lieutenant Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Raymond E Baldwin
Governor of Connecticut
Succeeded by
James L McConaughy

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