Governor Charles A. Sprague's Administration

Governor's Message, 1943

Source: MESSAGE Of CHARLES A. SPRAGUE Governor of Oregon To the Forty-second Legislative Assembly 1943

The President, The Speaker and Members of the Assembly

Since the last meeting of the legislative assembly the interest and energies of public officials and private citizens have been largely absorbed by the world war, first in preparation for possible involvement, and second, after December 7th, 1941, a date of catastrophe in American history, in full-scale participation. As governor I had the responsibility to organize and direct much of the state’s activity in the war, and I desire now to report briefly on my discharge of that responsibility.

Under our plan of organization four divisions of responsibility were recognized: first, military; second, policing; third, civilian; fourth, economic. Duties were assigned existing state departments as far as possible and new machinery was set up only when necessary. Every effort has been made to articulate with federal agencies, to avoid overlapping authority, to employ local controls, and to operate economically. The pattern of administration has proven flexible and has required no extensive alteration as the war intensified.


The outbreak of war in the Pacific made Oregon a potential battlefront, which became real with the shelling of our soil at Fort Stevens on the night of June 21, 1942, with the dropping of bombs in Curry county in September, and the sinking of tankers off our coast in October. No casualties or damage resulted from enemy action upon or within the state.

The prime duty for defense of Oregon lies with the armed forces of the United States. I wish to report that the army, navy and coast guard have been diligent to provide that defense. Handicapped for lack of previous preparation and by the urgency of demands for men and munitions in other theatres, the forces detailed to duty here have been unremitting in vigilance. I wish to state without amplification that Oregon’s defense situation is steadily improving.

I have kept in constant touch with army and navy officers commanding both in the region and within the state, and have extended through departments of state government maximum cooperation with the military forces for the successful discharge of their mission. I have likewise kept in close touch with Selective Service operations in the effort to supply the regular and heavy quotas of selectees promptly and equitably. I cannot reveal the number of men and women who have volunteered or been inducted into the military forces from Oregon; but we have every reason to feel proud of the state’s showing in this regard, as well as the record being made by these Oregonians in service in various parts of the world.

On the outbreak of war I put into immediate effect plans previously drawn for the creation of a State Guard. Command was first assigned to Brigadier General Alvin C. Baker, and on his retirement due to ill health to Colonel, now Brigadier General Ralph P. Cowgill. The First Regiment was initially constituted and is composed of twelve rifle companies with necessary attached units. The Guard was further expanded by enrollment of 24 separate battalions and nine calvary troops, the members of which furnish their own arms and uniforms. State Guard strength on November 30th last stood at 452 officers and 8374 enlisted men. Regular periods of drill and field training are held. The men are serious in purpose and industrious. While it has not been necessary to mobilize the Guard for action, it is here, ready for any emergency, though its capacity for service is limited greatly because of inadequate and presently unobtainable military equipment.


I assigned to Charles P. Pray, superintendent of state police, responsibility for police and guard duty within the state, and by proclamation directed the cooperation of local enforcement officers with the state police. Under the wise provisions of the 1941 State Guard Act, funds were available for the expansion of the state police to take care of added policing, particularly on highways and bridges. Under this plan it was not necessary to call out the State Guard and station its men on police duty.

To date no damage has been reported due to action of enemy saboteurs.


Recognizing that modern warfare calls for virtually universal participation I established on June first, 1941, an organization for civilian defense. A state advisory defense council was named, with Ross McIntyre of Portland as chairman and Mrs. H.D. Peterson of Dallas as vice chairman. Jerrold Owen, secretary of the world war veterans’ state aid commission, was made executive with the title of coordinator. County councils of defense were appointed. For the Portland metropolitan area Mayor R. earl Riley has served by federal and state appointment as director of civilian defense.

Following organization the enrollment of volunteers for civilian war work proceeded rapidly. The number of those taking part as volunteers in various phases of civilian defense will reach into the hundreds of thousands.

The first great task was preparation for defense against enemy action, especially from airplanes. This required setting up the aircraft warning service, enrolling and training auxiliary fire and police details, planning for emergency welfare services in case of disaster, and for evacuation; training for specialized duties such as bomb disposal. Such functions are embraced under the Civilian Protection division with Mr. Jack A. Hayes, deputy state fire marshal, as director. The Protection division also has the task of carrying out directives of the Western Defense Command in such matters as dimout and blackout which call for full public cooperation.

Necessary civilian participation in other war measures has been effectively channelized through special organizations. On request of federal authorities I set up organizations for rationing, for salvage, and for transportation control. Special committees were named for recreation, child welfare, youth’s activities, consumer interest, etc. These are grouped in the Civilian War Services division of Civilian Defense, with Mrs. E.W. St. Pierre as director.

This is but a skeleton report of the wide and necessarily somewhat loose organization of Civilian Defense. It is functioning successfully, and the thoroughness of the state’s preparedness against disaster and the fullness of popular participation in war undertakings have won commendation.


The impact of the war on the economic life of the state has been tremendous. While some lines of enterprise have suffered, the war has resulted in a vast expansion of production and employment. The pressure on labor supply has been exhausting and thousands of workers have come to Oregon from all parts of the country.

Much of the time the executive department has been given to helping industries and communities solve their economic and social problems. Two members of my staff were assigned to this work. To avert shutdowns of industry pools of plants were encouraged and these have obtained war contracts running into tens of millions of dollars.

The public is quite familiar with our industrial expansion, especially in shipbuilding, lumbering and metal working. The startling records of speed in ship construction in Oregon shipyards have made the directing genius, Henry J. Kaiser, and the city of Portland world famous.

Though the employment service was federalized by order of the president on July 1st, 1942, the state has continued to assist in solving labor problems, now one of supply of manpower rather than lack of jobs. Crises in farm harvests called for prompt action in the way of appeals from the governor. Great crops were harvested and processed in 1941 and 1942 with a minimum of loss because the public did respond to appeals for help. A mobilization of women in early 1942, directed by Mrs. Saidie Orr Dunbar, revealed a reservoir of women available for work, thousands of whom have now been drawn into employment. The muster of youth was invaluable in providing additional labor for essential tasks.

A special bright spot is the achievement of the public schools of the state in training men and women for war industries. At last report the total number of these trainees as of December 31st last was 115,000, the largest number, on the basis of comparative population, of any state.

Another bright spot is the record of no less of production in war plants in Oregon due to labor disputes, a record reflecting giant credit on workers and management.

The toughest job ahead is to provide manpower for essential industries, the great deficiencies being in shipbuilding, lumbering and agriculture. It is hoped that the recent federal organization of manpower administration will provide a flow of workers to these enterprises, but our people must realize that so long as the war lasts they face long and hard work to sustain production vital for victory.

I cannot praise too highly the patriotic devotism of the people of Oregon as proven by their achievements in this war crisis. State and local and federal officials, the public schools, patriotic and civic organizations, newspapers, radio, churches, farmers, workers, business executives, housewives have through their loyal endeavors written a glowing chapter in the history of their state and nation.


I turn now to report on strictly state matters for the two-year period. The budget for the 1943-1945 biennium is in your hands and shows that the state’s financial condition is unusually healthy. The budget shows an operating surplus of $688,819 for the coming biennium, and an excess in receipts from income taxes of $11,639,647 for the current biennium. However, it must be borne in mind that the war prosperity which has produced this excess is fickle, while the compounding of the state budget at the relentless six per cent per annum rate steadily increases the demands on revenues available for general state expenditure. There is perhaps greater need for conservatism in public finance in periods of prosperity than in periods of adversity.

After an adjournment of the last legislature the state tax commission handed down a decision in a long-pending case and directed the readjustment of valuations on assessment rolls for Multnomah county to comply with the law. The commission’s decision was subsequently upheld by the supreme court. That decision was not only sound as to the law, but sound as to public policy. The only just criticism against the commission was its delay in announcing its decision.

There followed, however, a torrent of abuse of the commission and of the Oregon system of taxation, most of which in my judgment was wholly unjustified. The system is a product of growth, and as times change alterations will be necessary. I warn against any radical change in the general taxation plan of Oregon or in the administrative organization under which the state and counties have made great strides in the direction of equity in assessments.


I regret to report two serious events at state institutions. A series of three fires at flax sheds at the prison caused a loss of nearly $200,000, and will reduce fibre production this winter. The guilty, a group of convicts, were apprehended and given additional sentences. The board of control authorized steps to reduce the fire hazard at the penitentiary, and recommends an increase in the state restoration fund from which fire losses are paid.

The new dormitory at the penitentiary annex and the new dining hall and hospital at the penitentiary have been completed and are now in use.

With real sadness I report the death of 47 patients at the state hospital and the illness of several hundred others because of accidental mixing of poison with food. The facts are well known. The incident brought freshly into focus the distressing conditions at the state hospital, referred to in my last message, and which the last legislature took initial steps to correct.

That program included adoption of a series of bills prepared by the Oregon Mental Hygiene Society, allowing for increases in number of professional workers and attendants at the hospitals and shortening of hours of work of employees.

I also submitted a six-year building program carefully prepared to meet the present and prospective needs of all the institutions and carefully balanced to stay within the state’s financial capacity to build and to operate. The 1941 legislature made the necessary appropriations for the first two-year term.

War conditions have seriously interfered with our planning. Doctors and nurses have entered military service, and members of working staffs have been los through attraction of higher wages in war industries. This situation is common to institutions in all the states. Construction of the new treatment hospital at the Oregon State Hospital, for which plans were drawn, ahs been postponed for lack of government sanction.

Our new budge makes much more liberal provision for salaries and for maintenance and operation at the institutions and carries on the building program according to plan. I believe the state should authorize full modernization of the state hospital and penitentiary to be undertaken as soon as wartime priorities are relaxes.

These grievous and costly incidents have obscured much of the good work and definite progress accomplished at the several state institutions. I know that I take considerable pride in the gains they have made in the way of physical improvements, in administration and in their care of the wards of the state.


Through recent state legislation and reorganization of its forestry department the State of Oregon has taken the lead in developing a progressive program of forest conservation. Stat eforests now embrace 184,000 acres and additional blocks of timberland will soon be acquired. With 1,104,000 acres of foreclosed forest lands in hand of the counties, and many hundreds of thousands of tax delinquent cut-over lands still in private hands there should be a rapid expansion of state forests so these natural forest lands may be brought into production under competent management and protection.

The brief experience in applying the 1941 forest practices act shows its value btu reveals also the need for amendments. The state forestry department will also submit amendments to the reforestation tax act.

Legislation restricting the cutting of immature forests is needed to conserve the forest wealth of the future. Oregon should lead in such a vital protective measure.

Forest fire losses in 1941 and 1942 were the lowest on record. Credit for this is largely due to increased vigilance, improved protective measures, and full public cooperation stimulated by the unique “Keep Oregon Green” movement.

A foundation in law and administration has been laid for an enlightened handling of our state’s greatest economic problem—conserving its forest resources, present and potential. This program to become effective will call for expanding financial support. We have put into our highway system hundreds of millions of dollars, and are well pleased with our investment. We must get a similar broad vision in forestry, investing millions in forest protection, in reforestation, in research that we may sustain an active forest industry which will return indefinitely tens of millions of dollars annually to our people.

We shall hear much about post-war planning. Here is an undertaking ready at hand. What more promising development is offered in this state than reforestation of the Tillamook burn for example and other vast areas of denuded forest lands?

A few brief comments are in order on other phases of state activity.

The lifting of the maximum grant for old age assistance to $40 a month has been helpful in meeting the needs of the state’s aged citizens. The general assistance load has declined sharply but we must be prepared for a reversal in the trend if the war boom ends suddenly.

The state board of higher education undertook some important revisions of curricula at the two major institutions of higher learning. The university was authorized to grant degrees in science courses and the state college in courses in mining engineering and in business and technology. This adjustment will involve some duplication and some increase in expense; and experience may justify some further modifications of courses. These changes mark a significant alteration in the pattern of the two institutions. What is now contemplated is not two wings of a structure but integrated individual institutions distinctive in type. I trust the changes will work to the benefit of each institution, the injury of neither and ultimately to the great good of the state as a whole.

The war has revealed many values and some deficiencies in our public school system. Oregon’s multi-unit administration of schools is outdated, its teachers are inadequately compensated, its average school term too short. Enlarged units of administration, broader spread of the tax burden which will be helped through the application of the recently adopted initiative No. 312, increases the legal minimum wage for teachers and in the length of the school term are steps in the path of progress.

Time does not permit even brief reference to other state activities, but full information respecting them is available at the several departments.


One of the greatest political problems of our time is the relationship between states and the central government under our federal system. Progressively thes tates have had their rights and powers diminished through extension of authority of the federal government. In the past biennium the employment service was federalized, at least temporarily. Still unsettled is the grave issue of control of waters for irrigation, though the trend of court decisions in power and flood control cases jeopardizes the state’s position and thus threatens the whole structure of irrigation law in the west. I have cooperated with other western states to preserve state authority in this field; and urge that this policy be sustained in the future.

There are signs that the limit of this federal invasion may have been reached. The Council of State Governments and Conference of Governors are now effective in representing the states in Washington and were instrumental in defeating efforts to federalize unemployment compensation, and to subject state and municipal bonds to federal taxation. War-time experience with federal bureaus under remote control is provoking popular resistance to centralized government.

It is recognized that under changing conditions closer political integration must accompany closer economic integration. The future of the states will rest not so much in constitutional theory as in practical performance. The greatest hope for preserving powers of the states is the evidence that they are becoming increasingly alive to their responsibilities. My aim as governor has been to develop state policies to make federal penetration unnecessary in fields such as forestry, employment and public education; and to provide direct and efficient administration so the public will be satisfied with the functioning of the state government. Not by orating with the outworn shibboleth of “states’ rights” but by demonstrating their capacity to govern will states retain or regain their political powers.

Much of the subordination to Washington has been due to the temptation of federal financing for local projects. That financing was deficit financing, which cannot continue indefinitely. State and local units of government therefore ought to work out plans for post-war development, with accompanying plans for the necessary financing. If states and communities carry their local obligations they are less apt to become economic or political pawns of the federal government. Public construction will help cushion the shock of transition from war to peace-time economy.


Two years ago I called to your attention the danger to this country from Japanese aggression. You know how that fear proved genuine, and how in less than a year Japan extended its empire to embrace all of East Asia and virtually all the islands of the western Pacific. About all the United States has done to date is to halt the further extension of Japanese power. We have not yet thrown out the Japanese from a single atoll of their conquests. Japan is now consolidating this empire whose populations total well over 200,000,000, and whose resources are among the richest and most varied in the world.

Because of our position as a state fronting the Pacific we in Oregon press the urgency of a full-scale military action to cut the jugular vein of Japan’s empire. The longer the task is deferred the greater will be the cost, and the graver the menace to our own continental security.

When Japan is defeated and its military spirit crushed, when stable order is established in the Orient, not on the basis of a parasitical colonialism but on terms of fair trade in commerce and fair treatment in human relations, the Pacific era of which we have long have dreamed will surely come into reality. Oregon is deeply interested in that future. This state should prosper by sharing in the expanded commerce with the Orient and be enriched in the renewal of cultural relations with China; yes, and with the people of a chastened Japan.

Oft quoted in these days is the Greek saying that war is the mother of change. We have found that war of the present global dimensions is productive of change even in the intimate lives of the people, as it is prophetic of change when the order comes to “Cease firing!” If the sacrifice required goes to the degree of real privation we must not falter, for the issues now are of life and death. The declared aim of the axis powers is world domination. The victims of their aggression already feel forged about them the chains of slavery to a “master race.” To secure ourselves from such a fate we must visit crushing defeat on the homelands of Italy, Germany, and Japan. We do not fight alone. Stalwart Great Britain, valiant Russia, long-suffering China and a score of other nations are united with us in purpose and effort.

This working cooperation must continue after the war. While it may seem foolish to write the peace before we win the war, it would be ghastly stupidity to lose the war by neglecting the peace. It is the substance rather than the form of post-war cooperation which is vital. In the world of airplanes and radio no country can dwell in magnificent isolation, not even the halcyon islands of the south seas which have suddenly found themselves dropped into the caldron of war. Nor can we safely put our trust in covenants and peac pacts and disarmament treaties which give advantage to the most deceitful among the nations. The war will leave a terrifying legacy of slaughtered manpower, of despoiled countries and industries, of bitter hatred. That its ending may not mark merely the truce of exhaustion but bring a peace that heals will call for the highest degree of statesmanship among the leaders of nations, and no less an intelligent comprehension of world problems among their peoples.

We fight and we fight for full victory; and we must continue to fight to preserve the gains for ourselves and for the world which alone can justify the appalling cost of this war in blood and treasure.

In this chamber four years ago I took my oath as governor of the state. I have comer to the end of my term and now turn over the office to my constitutionally chosen successor. As I retire I wish to acknowledge the cooperation I have received from other state officials, and the fidelity of the appointive officers in my administration. I wish also to express to the people of Oregon my very deep and genuine gratitude for the honor they have done me in electing me to this high office. I have endeavored to fulfill their trust in me and, in peace and in war, to discharge the duties of my office to the best of my ability. My devotion to state and country will continue as I return to private life.

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