AUSTIN Over thirty years ago, Texas Monthly wrote of W.E. "Pete" Snelson, "Conservative Democrat. Midland. Not flashy but a devotee of Grover Cleveland's maxim Honor lies in honest toil." |
Former State Senator W.E. "Pete" Snelson passed away peacefully at his home in Georgetown, Texas on the afternoon of Saturday April 26, 2014 surrounded by his family. Generous and kind even in passing Pete will always be remembered for his enjoyment of the simple pleasures in life such as a beautiful West Texas sunset. He loved his family, friends, talking politics and watching sports on television. He was an inspiration to all who knew him.
Pete was born the sixth of seven children on March 28, 1923 in Grandfalls, Texas. He was salutatorian of his graduating class from Grandfalls-Royalty High. After graduation, Pete worked as news editor and advertising manager for the Grandfall's Gazette. In 1940, he began studying journalism at Texas College of Mines in El Paso. He combined his college studies with a full time job as sports editor for the El Paso Times.
In 1943, Pete was called to active duty by the US Army. After basic training, Pete was sent by the Army Specialized Training Program to the University of Nebraska to study German language, history, and culture. Pete joined the 44th Infantry Division, Company B of the 324th Infantry Regiment which was deployed to Cherbourg, France. On November 13, 1944, Pete's Company attacked the German line in the Vosges Mountains where he was wounded. After three months of recuperation, he was interviewed and selected for service as a Special Agent in the 307th Counter Intelligence Corp detachment at 7th Army Headquarters. Prior to Pete's discharge from the US Army as a Technical Sargent, he received a Purple Heart, Bronze Star, and Combat Infantryman's Badge. He remained in the US Army Reserve and was commissioned as a Lieutenant and served as a commander of the Counter Intelligence Corps unit at Fort Bliss, Texas.
After the War, Pete returned to El Paso where he graduated from Texas College of Mines and accepted a faculty position. In 1948, Pete began his Masters of Journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. After his graduation in 1950, Pete moved to Midland where he was named a vice-president of Odessa College. During the 1950s, Pete was elected President of the Texas Jaycees and was named outstanding State president by the US Jaycees. He left higher education in 1955 to found Snelson Advertising agency which he operated for thirty-five years. On May 31, 1959, Pete married Susan Sutton of Denver, Colorado.
In 1960, Pete defeated a three time incumbent and was elected as a State Representative. In 1964, Pete was elected to the Texas Senate. He served the 25th District until his retirement in 1983. During his long tenure as an elected official, he served as chairman of the Senate Education, Oil & Gas and Intergovernmental Relations committees. He also served on the Legislative Budget Board and Finance Committee as well as the Sunset Commission and the Legislative Council. In 1971, he was elected as President Pro-Tempore of the Texas Senate and served as Governor for a day on December 4, 1971. In reflecting back upon his long and illustrious career, the legislation that stood out for him most was his sponsorship of the Early Childhood Intervention Program that became the model nationally for early intervention for developmentally delayed children ages 0-3.
In 1983, Pete left the Senate and devoted himself to his oil company Six-S Properties and Snelson Advertising agency. In 1989, he began a new career as a legislative consultant for education until his retirement in 2008. Pete's example of humility, honesty, and leadership will be treasured by his family and friends.
Pete is survived by the love of his life Susan Snelson and their four children and ten grandchildren: Gene Snelson and Kara Salmonson and their sons Dylan and Lance; Sandy and Lynn Yaklin and their children Marshall, Shepherd, and Hanna; Steven and Teresa Guerra Snelson and their children Casey and Skylar; and Shane and Antonieta Snelson and their children Ana, Luke, and Eva as well as his brother Bill Snelson and niece Maggie Meline.
Services will be held on Saturday May 3rd at 1:00 p.m. at Central Presbyterian Church, 200 E. 8th Street immediately followed by a burial service at the Texas State Cemetery at 909 Navasota Street. Parking will be available at St David's Episcopal Church 301 E 8th. Donations can be made in lieu of flowers in Pete's name to either: Sul Ross Archives of the Big Bend, Sul Ross State University, BAB 200, Box C-100, Alpine, Texas 79832, www.sulross.edu (giving), or Honor Flight Austin, 815-A Brazos St., UPS Box 498, Austin, TX 78701-2514, www.honorflightaustin.org.
Arrangements by Weed-Corley-Fish Funeral Home, (512) 452-8811. Obituary and guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com.
Published in Odessa American on May 1, 2014