Charles Arthur Sprague
Born: November 12, 1887, Lawrence KS
Died: March 13, 1969, Salem OR
Oregon Statesman, Salem OR, 1929-1969
Gazette-Times, Corvallis OR, 1925-1929
Journal-Times, Ritzville WA, 1915-1925
Charles A. Sprague, son of Charles Allen and Alice Caroline (Glasgow) Sprague, was born November 12, 1887, in Lawrence KS. He was graduated (A.B.) with honors from Monmouth (Illinois) College in 1910, and came west to be superintendent of schools at Waitsburg WA in 1910. From 1913 to 1915 he was assistant superintendent of public instruction for the state of Washington, and on August 8, 1915, was married to Blanche Chamberlain in Walla Walla. To them a daughter, Martha, and son, Wallace, were born. In that same year he acquired the weekly Journal-Times at Ritzville, and he served as its publisher and editor for 10 years.
The family moved to Corvallis OR in 1925, with Sprague as part owner and business manager of the Corvallis Gazette-Times. Four years later, he became principal stockholder and publisher of the morning Oregon Statesman in Salem, and in 1939 he acquired sole ownership and was the Statesman's editor and publisher until his death on March 13, 1969.
In 1939 he also became Oregon's governor, and remained so until 1943.
During most of his 40 years in Salem he wrote more than a half million words annually in his editorials and his front-page column "It Seems to Me," and also was in great demand as a public speaker. His office, where he was his own receptionist and stenographer, was open to all. He was often referred to as Oregon's "First Citizen" as well as its "Conscience."
No one in Oregon's history has reached his eminence and success in so many fields of endeavor. He displayed strong progressive leadership in the cause of human rights and amity; he maintained unquestioned integrity and engendered tremendous respect; and he made vital contributions in the arena of respectable journalism for more than a half a century.
"His opinions were so universally respected that other editors and opinion makers would wait until he'd express an opinion to make their own .... Sprague's greatest gubernatorial achievement was in the conservation of natural resources." -- Thomas Vaughan of the Oregon Historical Society
"His fellow journalists gave Sprague the well-earned title among newspaper editors of the 'Conscience of Oregon'." -- J. Wesley Sullivan, former chairman of the Statesman-Journal editorial board
"It is no accident that always the Statesman carried on its masthead the line 'No favor sways us, no fear shall awe.' He really took it seriously." -- Wallace Sprague (Charles's son)
"He was somewhat shy and very learned. I loved him dearly. He was a man with unassailable integrity. That's rare." -- Legislative Historian Cecil Edwards, Sprague's former secretary
"As for Sprague's integrity as an editor and publisher, Conrad Prange, another long-time Oregon Statesman employee, says it best: 'He backed his reporters.' From a reporter, the compliment can't get better than that." -- Ron Blankenbaker, Statesman-Journal columnist