n October 28, 1947 Governor Snell was killed in a plane crash in the wild terrain east of Klamath Falls along with Secretary of State Robert S. Farrell Jr., President of the Senate Marshall E. Cornett, and their pilot Cliff Hogue. The plane crash stunned and grieved the people of Oregon. The editorial from the Portland Oregonian expressed the depth of the loss:
"Ours is a state that bows its head in grief, though yet the semi-anesthesia of shock retards perhaps the fullest realization of Oregon's great loss. Our beloved governor, Earl Snell, is gone. And with him Robert S. Farrell Jr., the brilliant young secretary of state. The able president of the senate, Marshall E. Cornutt, died beside them. And with these public officers died Cliff Hogue, the pilot of the ill-starred plane which crashed in the night flight over the wild terrain east of Klamath Falls. No sister state, we think, ever was visited at a single stroke, in its official family, by such great loss as this. For these were men who had been held in more than usual affection. The airman, not less than the three state officials, had the gift of making friends, we are told. And so it can be said that each was well companioned when his hour struck.
Earl Snell, essentially friendly and boyish, found it easy to make friends. Able executive though he was, his gift of the common touch never forsook him. He smiled his way into the hearts of the people of Oregon. Yet his work was so near him that when he traveled he carried his problems along - to mediate upon at odd moments. There was none that surpassed him in a thorough knowledge of the state, for Oregon was his constant textbook - and the text was never forgotten. Those who knew him intimately will recall how swift the facial transition from laughter to gravity when something challenged his thought."
Government officials quickly moved to fill the void left by the deaths of three of its leaders. Two days after the crash John H. Hall took the oath of office as Oregon's new governor. Within a few days he had named a new secretary of state as the government attempted to return to normalcy.