William R. Snodgrass, the former state comptroller of Tennessee, passed away Sunday night after suffering from a brief illness. He was 85.
Snodgrass was an institution in state government and politics, so much so that the building that was once the headquarters for American General was named in his honor when acquired by the state. He served the state for 44 years and was named "Comptroller Emeritus" when he retired from state government in 1999.
Another person who could be considered an institution in Tennessee remembered his former colleague fondly when reached by NashvillePost.com this afternoon.
Former Gov. Ned McWherter said that he had gotten the call this morning regarding Snodgrass's passing. McWherter said, "I knew he had been at Centennial Medical Center and hadn't been well. I was hoping to see hin next time I was in Nashvile and take him over to eat fried chicken at Wendell Smith's."
McWherter then stated, "When I arrived in Nashville in 1968, Bill was already there as comptroller. He taught me about state government and how things worked in Nashville. He was moderate to conservative in his fiscal policies, which influenced me. I not only respected him, I leaned on him. He was very helpful in my career and we continued to be friends long after I left office. I will miss him."
A native of White County, Tennessee, Snodgrass was born September 15, 1922. After mililtary service during the Second World War, he earned a bachelor's degree at the University of Tennessee. He entered state government in 1953 and became comptroller in 1955. From then on, every General Assembly re-elected him to the position until he retired in 1999.
In 1972, Snodgrass faced the only serious challenge to his position when a majority of Democrats backed Nashvillian Floyd Kephart to be comptroller. Snodgrass retained the job after some Dems defied the party and joined with Republicans to vote for him.
The comptroller's job is to oversee audits of state and local government entities — to know where the money is coming from and where it's going. The position requires political independence as well as a certain degree of diplomatic skill.
Snodgrass told the Journal of Accountancy in a 1999 interview that he was grateful that his office was filled by legislative rather than popular election. "So you don't waste your time raising funds and campaigning," he explained. "You don't need to do a lot of public posturing."
Visitation will be held from 5 to 8 p.m. tomorrow at Woodmont Christian Church on Hillsboro Pike. The funeral will be at the church at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
In lieu of flowers, donations are asked to be made to either Woodmont Christian Church or Alive Hospice of Nashville.