William R. Snodgrass served as comptroller of the treasury in Tennessee for forty-four years (1954-99), longer than any other person in that office. Tennessee is unusual among the states in that the constitutional officers, such as secretary of state, treasurer, and comptroller, are elected by the General Assembly rather than by the public in a statewide election.
Born on September 15, 1922, in White County, Snodgrass graduated from David Lipscomb College (now University) in 1942. He then served in the U.S. military from 1943 to 1946. Following the war, he attended the University of Tennessee (UT) in Knoxville, graduating with a B.S. in accounting in 1947. He subsequently pursued graduate work there and was appointed research assistant in the Bureau of Business Research at the university in 1947. He became a consultant on municipal accounting and finance for UT’s Municipal Technical Advisory Service in 1951. This work led to his appointment as director of budget and director of local finance for the State of Tennessee in 1953.
In January 1955, the Tennessee General Assembly elected the thirty-three-year-old Snodgrass as comptroller of the treasury for a two-year term. Each successive assembly reelected him until he retired on January 13, 1999. The many duties of the comptroller are described by state statute. The most important include the performance of audits of state and local government entities and participation in the general financial management of the state.
During his long career, he participated in numerous associations and councils. He served in leadership positions with the National Legislative Conference; the National Conference of State Legislatures; the National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers; the Municipal Finance Officers Association; and the Financial Accounting Foundation. He also received awards from the Council on Municipal Performance (1980), the Joint Financial Improvement Program (1988), the Association of Government Accountants (1988), and the Government Finance Officers Association (1988).
Snodgrass became comptroller of the treasury emeritus upon his retirement. The State of Tennessee named the state’s largest office building, the former American General Building, the William R. Snodgrass Tower in his honor. He is married to Faye Birdwell of Gallatin, with whom he has three children.