Earl Smittcamp, a long-time farmer who spent nearly 50 years in the line of succession to California’s Governor, died today.
Governor Reagan appointed Smittcamp as Disaster Acting Governor #6 in 1967, placing him 14th in the line of succession after California’s statewide elected officials and the five Disaster Acting Governors ahead of him. As noted in a 2011 post on this blog, a law created the Disaster Acting Governors in 1958 amid concerns that a massive Soviet atomic attack on Sacramento, Los Angeles, and San Francisco could kill all of the state’s elected officials and lead to the end of the civilian government of the state.
After the 1966 election, Ronald Reagan moved into the Governor’s office and soon appointed a new group of seven new Disaster Governors. In addition to Smittcamp (designated as “Disaster Acting Governor #6″), the six others were Carlyle Reed (#1), Victor Lundy (#2), R. Gwin Follis (#3), Y. Frank Freeman (#4), Virgil Pinkley (#5), and A. W. Bramwell (#7). Two years later, Reagan appointed Robert L. Vickers to fill the vacancy created when Freeman died in 1969.
No additional Acting Governors were appointed after 1969, and over the years the appointees died of old age until (following the death of Vickers in 2011) Smittcamp became the highest ranking Disaster Acting Governor (11th in line of succession). At the time of his death, Smittcamp had spent more than 47 years in the line of succession, longer than any other person in state history.