A People's History of the Tennessee Valley Authority

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), established in 1933, is a federal utility that provides power to Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states. As a New Deal program, TVA had a transformational impact on the Valley by providing flood control, economic development, and electric power to many areas for the first time. Today, the TVA continues to impact communities in both positive and negative ways. The events described in this timeline are personal accounts of TVA's history from ratepayers who participated in the 2019 Tennessee Valley Energy Democracy Tour.

If You have a personal story that you would like to see on this timeline please follow the link below to make a submission. https://actionnetwork.org/forms/tvatimeline

1933-04-06 19:11:57

TVA is Created by FDR Under The New Deal

During the New Deal Era, FDR signed the TVA Act

1933-11-18 23:16:22

Founding Vision and Ethics of TVA

Memphis: The vision & ethics to be able to respond to economic collapse and to transition the economy of the south.

1933-12-01 06:19:48

Families Displaced by Norris Dam

Claiborne County: Norris Lake Project dispelled Lewis family from 1200-1500 acres in Granger, Claiborne County area of Lone Mountain. Only 200 acres actually flooded leaving much property for TVA to sell later on to developers as “lake property”

1933-12-16 10:09:35

TVA's Integrated Resource Management Plan

During the 1930's, TVA uses "Integrated Resource Management" to generate power, control flooding and erosion, implement reforestation, Etc.

1933-12-31 02:19:22

History of Labor Unions

Knoxville: TVA open to labor unions. Did not fight them tooth and nail like private companies

1934-02-01 02:19:22

TVA Hires my Father to work on Norris Dam

Knoxville: My father went to work for TVA Norris dam and entered UT rotating quarters of work and study. He eventually became an administrator for TVA and Oak Ridge. This allowed my family to have a comfortable lifestyle, but m father admitted that all of that came at a “certain cost”

1934-02-08 10:56:22

TVA Took My Family's Property Through Eminent Domain

Campbell County: TVA took my family’s property and dug up the cemetery and moved them to Bakers & Ford cemetery. TVA also hired some of my family to work for them. My dad worked as a welder for Coal shovels with Peabody Coal

1935-05-27 08:43:40

TVA Involved with Meeting Wartime Energy Demands

In the latter 30's and early 40's TVA is involved with wartime demands for energy and other services

1935-10-03 00:10:48

Giving Money made from Coal back into the Community

Campbell County: My family owned coal & forestry property in West Virginia through Rewland Land Co. The original land buyer offered the Appalachian people very little for their land. As a result, they lived in poverty & worked the coal mines. I am hoping to help those in West Virginia with medical problems with my inheritance of Rewland Land Co.

1935-12-12 06:19:48

3,000 Families Relocated for the Construction of Norris Dam

Huntsville: My grandparents and their family were affected by the construction of Norris Dam. Their farm in Union Co, TN (Sharp’s Chapel/Mossy Springs) fell within the flood plain area of the resulting lake along the Powell River. Their farm was purchased under eminent domain with 3,000 families moving into surrounding areas, comparable properties were at a premium. My grandparents found a hard-scrobble farm in Campbell Co. for their family, this was a sacrifice for the good of all. Nevertheless, my grandparents held no ill will toward anyone, even though my grandfather’s brother in law hung himself when he was confronted with the same challenge.

1935-12-19 06:19:48

Holston & Grainger County Support Electrification

Knoxville: Young people in the 30’s along the Holston in Grainger County wanted electricity, so they supported TVA even though their land was lost.

1935-12-24 04:30:12

TVA Promises that Norris Dam Will Help with Flood Control in the Region

Crossville: TVA Promises that Norris Dam Will Help with Flood Control in the Region

1936-10-01 08:51:10

Rural Electrification Act of 1936

Rural Electrification Association established by FDR, supports development of Rural Electric Cooperatives

1936-10-03 00:10:48

Electricity Comes to West Tennessee Improving Peoples Lives

Campbell County: My great grandmother told me about when her home first got electricity in west Tennessee. The first thing they had was two lights and a washing machine.

1936-12-31 07:00:29

Norris Dam Finishes Construction

Construction of Norris Dam began in 1933, just a few months after the creation of TVA, and was completed in 1936. The dam is 265 feet high and stretches 1,860 feet across the Clinch River.

1937-11-03 14:53:36

Norris Dam Brings New Tourism to Tennessee

Clairfield: Norris Project leads to TN State Parks at Norris, Cove Lake and Big Ridge. This led to more local recreation and an improved tourism economy.

1940-02-01 02:19:22

"The Town that Wouldn't Drown"

Knoxville: 1940’s, My grandparent’s hometown, Butler, TN was acquired by TVA to build the Watauga Dam in Carter county Tennessee and flooded over. In the 1980s my mom actually was able to walk through the houses when the lake was drained. The 600 residents who lived in the town were relocated to higher ground.

1940-05-01 22:42:53

Destruction of Archaeological Sites

Nashville: Areas were only given months to recover the archaeological treasures on the land before it was flooded and lost forever to history. Entire cultures wiped without record.

1940-12-04 06:19:48

The Dead Rise with Norris Dam

Claiborne County: Being from Norris Lake flood plain of Lone Mountain & Bear Creek my grandfather remembers numerous coffins that “floated up” with the rising of the lake.

1943-01-11 22:31:54

Manhattan Project Establishes Atomic Energy Commission

Knoxville: Manhattan Project establishes Atomic Energy Commission (now Dept. of energy) and creation of ORNL, y-12, K-25

1943-10-01 13:20:13

Construction of Oak Ridge National Lab

Memphis: Oak Ridge National Lab established. Today it is The Dept. of Energy’s largest facility.

1945-07-09 21:35:54

TVA Begins to Expand

TVA builds demands and coal plants at unprecedented rates. It would grow to become the nations largest energy supplier by the end of WWII.

1948-05-01 22:42:53

"When I was 7 we got lights and a Refrigerator!"

Nashville: I was born on a farm with no electricity, we used kerosene oil for lighting and got our water from a spring. When I was 7 or so we got “rural electrification”. We were happy because we got lights and a refrigerator!

1950-02-01 02:19:22

TVA Brings Many New Jobs to Tennessee

Knoxville: My parents moved out of Oak Ridge and purchased a farm outside of Kingston. My youth was during the Kingston boom years thanks to the Oak Ridge and TVA Steam plant, but we realized down the line that there were costs.

1950-11-01 05:39:22

Many View TVA as a Savior

Nashville: TVA’s New Johnsonville Steam plant was a major employer to impoverished rural areas as a result, many viewed TVA as a savior.

1953-06-07 07:31:04

Shawnee Fossil Plant (TVA's Oldest Running Coal Plant)

Construction began on the Shawnee Fossil Plant in January 1951. The plant's first unit began operation in April 1953. Shawnee is currently the oldest TVA coal-fired power plant still in operation.

1957-11-14 13:12:08

Growing Up Near Norris Dam Inspired My Career

Born in 1957: Growing up near Norris Dam allowed me to see an amazing industrial structure in a mostly rural location. I feel that it influenced me to seek educational opportunities to allow me to gain employment in technical fields

1959-02-12 02:42:43

TVA Becomes Self Financed

Political interference kept getting in the way of getting the government to fund its projects. TVA became self-financed through the Bond financing act so it could generate revenue through issuing bonds

1959-10-01 13:20:13

TVA Converts Natural Gas Plant to Burn Coal

Memphis sells it’s natural gas plant to TVA and becomes TVA’s customer. TVA converts plant to burn coal.

1960-01-01 22:42:53

Strip Mining Impacts Land

TVA’s has had a huge impact on the land through strip mining since the 1960's

1960-01-08 16:46:10

Nuclear programs expand during the 60's

During the 1960's you can see TVA investing much more money into the development of nuclear as a cheap alternative fuel source.

1960-10-01 15:57:10

Brander Family Home Lost to TVA Project

Nashville: Loss of Brander family home to a TVA project

1962-02-16 16:10:14

"TVA Provided Power to the Rural Electric Coop Where my Father Worked"

Campbell: 1962-1986 TVA provided power to the rural Electric coop where my father worked

1963-01-01 22:42:53

TVA Paradise Fossil Plant Disperses Coal Dust onto Paradise

The Paradise smokestacks are built tall enough “to adequately disperse coal dust into the atmosphere” Pollution!

1963-10-01 13:20:13

Steam Plant? or Coal Plant

Memphis: Allen plant called a “steam plant”, but should have been called a “coal burning power plant”.

1970-03-13 10:47:49

I Moved to Knoxville When My Dad got a Job Building Coal Tower Scrubbers

Knoxville: I moved to Knoxville when my dad’s company, Carborundum, from New York started a division to build coal tower scrubbers. They thought they would make a bunch of money from TVA. Once again Yankees were coming to TN repeating history. After a few years the company closed up shop. We stayed.

1970-12-11 18:33:15

Decreasing Energy Demands Causes Infrastructure Projects to Stall

During the 1970's and 1980's a decrease in energy demands causes sudden cancellations of several big infrastructure projects; TVA promotes energy conservation projects and works to stabilize rates

1973-01-01 22:42:53

TVA Starts Construction of Watts Bar Nuclear Plant

Nashville: TVA starts construction of watts bar nuclear plant, projected cost $600-700 million,

1974-06-08 02:00:13

TVA Brought Electricity to my House for Free

Rogersville: TVA brought electricity to my house for free in 1974 and to a different house in 1976.

1975-01-11 06:33:49

I Grew Up Near Pickwick Dam

Grew up near Pickwick Dam

1975-04-09 06:00:12

TVA Takes on Debt

Knoxville: TVA takes on debt and never makes money back. That debt still limits TVA today.

1975-12-05 06:19:48

Phones Come to Town of Sharps Chapel

Claiborne County: Phones come to Sharps Chapel, Union County TN

1976-01-15 00:00:00

Dave Freeman Appointed to head TVA board

Chattanooga: Dave Freeman appointed to head TVA board (by President Carter) in 1976. Many innovative programs & statements during his tenure.

1978-04-01 06:00:12

Communities Fight Against Tellico Dam

Knoxville: Communities fight against against the construction of Tellico Dam because it would flood good farmland, flood Cherokee burial grounds/cultural sites and possibly eliminate a fish species called the snail darter. This eventually goes to the supreme court where in "TVA V. Hill" the court rules that the dam halt construction to protect the snail darter population under the endangered species act. Later congress passed amended an appropriations bill to side step the courts decisions and finish the Tellico Dam in 1979

1978-10-19 00:10:48

Johnshonville Steam Plant is "Quite a DIRTY Plant"

Campbell: I worked on smokestack opacity instrumentation, installation, and electrical precipitator maintenance. At the Johnsonville Steam Plant (New Johnsonville, TN). At that time the plant had 6-8 coal-fired boilers and 16 gas-fired turbines. Quite a DIRTY plant.

1979-01-01 22:42:53

A Community Divided over Phipps Bend Nuclear Plant

Nashville: -I came together with the community to try to stop construction of the Phipps Bend Nuclear plant. Other community members were happy to have the good paying jobs made available. After 3 years and 1.5 billion dollars later the plant halted construction due to lack of demand. A 6 acre solar farm now sits on the property.

1979-03-08 00:50:02

Tellico Dam leads to 1st Revision of The Endangered Species Act

Clairfield: Tellico Dam Controversy leads to 1st Revision of Endangered Species Act

1980-04-18 06:00:12

Lawsuit Over TVA's Rates

Knoxville: Lawsuit to try to stop TVA from building future construction work-in-progress into rate for present ratepayers.

1980-12-03 06:19:48

TVA Bought out my Fathers Land for a Pump Station

Bowling Green: The house my grandfather grew up in was bought out by TVA. They tore it down and put a pump station on the land.

1990-04-12 06:19:48

Family Home Still Visible Underneath Norris Lake

Huntsville: When the lake is low my family said you could see the home place in Norris dam -Mike Stanfield La Follette mayor

A People's History of the Tennessee Valley Authority

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