Born: November 19, 1909, Grand Junction CO
Died: July 15, 1968, Albany OR
Albany Democrat-Herald, Albany OR, 1957-1962
Blue Mountain Eagle, John Day OR, 1948-1956
Eastern Oregon Observer, Ontario OR, 1936-1946
Various Oregon newspapers in which he owned an interest
Elmo Smith was born Nov. 19, 1909 in Grand Junction, Colorado, to Wilmer E. and Katie (Mohler) Smith. Following the death of his father when Elmo was 10, he was reared on the ranch of an uncle in Wilder, Idaho. He worked his way through college at the College of Idaho (Caldwell), graduating in 1932 with a B.A. in history. He then moved to Ontario, Oregon and began his lifelong newspaper career, starting an advertising publication with $25 in borrowed money.
In 1936 he founded the Eastern Oregon Observer in Ontario, Oregon, which he sold in 1946. It was during this period that he also began a public service career which, in growth and accomplishments, paralleled his newspaper career. In Ontario, he was elected mayor, and established a record in that office in which he was recognized by Coronet magazine as one of the five outstanding wartime mayors in small American cities. A major factor in this recognition stemmed from Ontario’s humane treatment of that area’s large Japanese-American population, a group which, in other areas of the nation, was displaced during the immediate post-Pearl Harbor emotions.
During World War II, he also served with the U.S. Navy.
In 1948, he purchased the Blue Mountain Eagle in John Day, and also an interest in the Madras Pioneer. Also in 1948, he was elected to the state senate, and was reelected in 1952, representing Grant, Harney and Malheur counties. He was named president of the senate in 1955. From that office, he became governor of Oregon on Jan. 31, 1956, succeeding to that office upon the death of Gov. Paul Patterson.
He was a candidate for reelection in 1956, but was defeated by Robert Holmes. In 1960, he was a candidate for the United States Senate, losing to Mrs. Maurine Neuberger.
After leaving the governorship, Smith expanded his publishing activities. He purchased the Albany Democrat—Herald (where he served as publisher from 1957 to 1962) and interests in several smaller weeklies, including the Hood River News, the Cottage Grove Sentinel, and the Dallas Itemizer—Observer. In 1968, in the final stages of a terminal bout with cancer, Smith sold the Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper to Donna and John R. Moreau of John Day.
He was the father of two children. A son, Dennis, saw service in Vietnam as a pilot, later was a pilot for Pan—American Airways, represented Oregon in Congress from 1981-1991, and is currently president of Eagle Newspapers, Inc. (formerly Blue Mountain Eagle, Inc.), the operating company of a group of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho newspapers, which had as its nucleus the newspapers acquired earlier by his father. A daughter, Janice, has had an active career in education and served on the staff at Tulane University in New Orleans.
Elmo Smith died of cancer in Albany on July 15, 1968. At his funeral, pallbearers and guest numbered about equally leading government officials and leading newspaper people of the state, a ratio that reflected the many contributions Elmo Smith had made during the 35 years he labored in both fields.
Started first publication in 1933 with $25 in borrowed money.
Founded Eastern Oregon Observer in 1936, sold in 1946.
Publisher of Blue Mountain Eagle, John Day OR, 1948-1956, owner until 1968.
President, Oregon Newspaper Publishers Association, 1960
Built the newspaper group now known as Eagle Newspapers, Inc., headed by son Dennis.