This is so unlike Troy Kelley’s leave of absence, that I almost can’t mention it.
But, Auditor Kelley’s leave put me on the trail, so we’ll start in 1941, when apparently war looked so likely that the legislature passed a law allowing elected officials to take long military leaves. The crux was that the governor was also the given permission to appoint a temporary stand-in.
I wrote a bit about Smith Troy’s leave earlier here. And, I’m not proud to report, I’m apparently wrong about a few details.
For Democrat Smith Troy, as he left Olympia for Fort Lewis, and then North Carolina, this meant Republican Arthur Langlie would be able to appoint his stand-in. But, that never happened. Troy stayed away, serving as a military lawyer in the 30th Infantry Division, advancing from captain to lieutenant colonel.
For most of that time, Fred E. Lewis, a deputy appointed by Smith in 1940, led the office. And, during those war years, “the office” of attorney general meant a great deal more than it had in the past.
Soon after being appointed (and then quickly elected) attorney general in 1940, Smith went to work consolidating his power. During the 1941 session, he pressed for a law bringing in all of the state’s legal work under his office. This move more than doubled the budget of his office, and obviously expanded the power of the state attorney general.
Lewis fought off attempts in 1943 to pull back that law, leaving the office in tact until Smith came back.
Langlie didn’t last through the 1944 election, and that’s when things changed for Lewis. Walgreen either caught on that Smith in absentia didn’t actually support him for the Democratic nomination. Or he just thought that governors, not absent attorneys general should appoint temporary office fillers.
Either way, by early spring 1945, Lewis resigned and Walgreen’s man Gerald Hile took control of the office. Hile had been as assistant US Attorney when he was called down to Olympia to serve as Walgreen’s in-office lawyer. It didn’t take long for the governor to place Hile as at least a temporary attorney general.
This is the scene that Troy returned to in the summer of 1945, literally sneaking back into town to take the oath of office. He’d been returned to the office months earlier, winning re-election while overseas in 1945. By September, he was officially released from the army, and Hile was released from his service too.