Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Bevan Brown, July 14, 2016

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Being hired by the TVA / Career locations

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Partial Transcript: The following--uh is an oral history interview conducted as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Association Oral History Pilot Project.

Segment Synopsis: Brown recalls how he was hired at the TVA. Brown's starting salary and his father's view on his position are briefly mentioned. The various transfers within TVA to offices throughout Tennessee in Brown's career are listed.

Keywords: Branch chiefs; Colleges; Deputy directors; Farms; Hiring; Interviews; Office of Natural Resources; Salary; Success; Telegrams; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineering; Engineering; Engineers; Fathers; Hydrology; Knoxville (Tenn.); Money; Norris (Tenn.); Offer and acceptance; Retirement; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Transfer; Water

00:03:07 - First job at TVA / Flood control

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Partial Transcript: Okay. And what sort of work did you do when you--just--were just hired?

Segment Synopsis: Brown characterizes the duties he performed in his first job as a civil engineer at TVA within the Flood Control Branch. The principles of TVA as envisioned by former TVA Chairman Aubrey 'Red' Wagner are briefly mentioned.

Keywords: Aubrey 'Red' Wagner; Branches; Decisions; Departure; Division directors; Engineer's aids; Flood Control Branch; Flood analysis; Improvements; Operations; Pleased; Promoted; River Control Branch; Stayed; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Civil engineers; Dams; Employees; Engineering; Flood control; Managers; Monitoring; Navigation; Power; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:07:11 - Aubrey 'Red' Wagner

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Partial Transcript: Now who was Red Wagner?

Segment Synopsis: Former TVA Chairman, Aubrey 'Red' Wagner's philosophy in governing and managing the TVA is examined, including his policy of refusing to name dams and parks after people. Rather, Wagner preferred to name completed projects after nearby geographic features.

Keywords: Aubrey 'Red' Wagner; Congressman; Politics; Projects; Steam plants; TVA Chairman; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Uncompromising; United States Army Corps of Engineers

Subjects: Dams; Duck River (Tenn.); Engineering; Engineers; Geography; Kentucky; Names; People; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:09:03 - Valley-wide flood control challenge

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Partial Transcript: Uh, in the late, uh, 1980s, we had a condition that I don't think's ever existed before then and has not existed since then.

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes an incident in which unprecedented flooding occurred in the Tennessee Valley, causing an emergency situation for the Flood Control Branch. Brown provides an account of the measures that the TVA took to reduce the damage to riverside properties and to protect the public interest, all from a supervisor's perspective of the incident.

Keywords: Busy; Clinton Water Treatment Plant; Conditions; Damage; Dick Freeman; Douglas Dam (Tenn.); Exhausted; Flood Control Branch; Flood gates; Goals; Highways; Norris Dam (Tenn.); Open; Operations; Owners; Phone calls; Problems; Properties; Rare; Reports; Reservoir systems; Riverside; Success; Supervisor, Operation of Dams; Supervisors; Surprise; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unprecedented; Upstream; Water release

Subjects: Change; Chaos; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineers; Clinton (Tenn.); Data; Design; Engineering; Engineers; Flood control; Floods; Houseboats; Knoxville (Tenn.); Mayors; People; Power; Pressure; Rain gauges; Rainfall anomalies; Reservoirs; Runoff; Sewage; Sleep; Staff; Stress; Technology; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Training; Velocity

GPS: Norris Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.224167, -84.091389
00:16:35 - Geographic context of flooding incident

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Partial Transcript: Before we do that though we probably, for someone that's listening to this, uh, we need to get some pers--give some perspective.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer and Brown provide an overview of the geographic areas that were affected by the flooding incident.

Keywords: Distance; Douglas Dam (Tenn.); Issue; Norris Dam (Tenn.); Scale; Scary; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tributaries; Water flow

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineers; Clinch River (Va. and Tenn.); Engineering; Engineers; Floods; French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.); Geography; Georgia; Knoxville (Tenn.); North Carolina; Rivers; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Norris Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.224167, -84.091389
00:18:53 - Rainfall gauge system during flooding incident

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Partial Transcript: Um, you mentioned your, um, rainfall gauge system...

Segment Synopsis: Brown discusses the technology and the rainfall gauge system that the TVA used during the time of the flooding incident.

Keywords: Amount; Daily reports; Desks; Field people; Flood Control Branch; Flood gates; Focus; Headquarters; Maps; Public Safety Officers; Rate of rainfall; Recorded; Reports; River systems; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Upstream

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineers; Dams; Engineering; Engineers; Frequency; Knoxville (Tenn.); Manual; Mississippi River; Ohio River; People; Rain gauges; Rainfall; Staff; System; Technology; Telephone; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:21:35 - Water release impacts on Savannah, Tennessee area farmers

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Partial Transcript: I remember when we had a break, on an earlier flood situation...

Segment Synopsis: Brown reflects upon an instance when a dam broke and consequentially flooded the town of Savannah, Tennessee. Located along the Tennessee River, Brown recalls the measures that the TVA took to assist farmers in the area with flooded land.

Keywords: Airplanes; Angry; Aubrey 'Red' Wagner; Checkbooks; Distance; Farmland; Flat; Flood Control Branch; Flood gates; Flooded; Hot; Jim Sasser; Land; Lawsuits; Legal limits; Legality; Norris Dam (Tenn.); Politics; Technicality; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tennessee senators; Water spilling

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineers; Dams; Engineering; Engineers; Farmers; Floods; Memphis (Tenn.); Pickwick Dam (Tenn.); Property; Savannah (Tenn.); Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Norris Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.224167, -84.091389
GPS: Savannah (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.223611, -88.236944
GPS: Pickwick Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.052222, -88.241667
00:25:00 - Divisions of Flood Control Branch

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Partial Transcript: Um, you got promoted and you, uh, worked up the ladder.

Segment Synopsis: Brown lists the branches and divisions under the Flood Control Branch of the TVA.

Keywords: Air Quality Branch; Engineering labs; Field Operations Branch; Flood Control Branch; Projects; Steam plants; Supervisors; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water Quality Branch

Subjects: Civil engineering; Engineering; Engineers; Flood control; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:26:34 - Engineering lab

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's take one at at time. Take--let's take the engineering lab.

Segment Synopsis: Brown details the work of the engineering lab within the Flood Control Branch.

Keywords: Capability; Chickamauga Dam (Tenn.); Cold water mitigation; Conditions; Distance; Educated; Effort; Empty; Engineering labs; Exits; Failures; Flood Control Branch; Flow; Generators; Limits; Norris Dam (Tenn.); Norris Reservoir (Tenn.); Norris Weir Dam; Peak; Ponds; Reduced load; Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (Tenn.); Sequoyah Nuclear Plant thermal discharge; Skilled; Soundwaves; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Timing; Turbines; Upstream; Water release; Weir Dam

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineering; Cold water; Dams; Drowning; Employees; Engineering; Engineers; Fisheries; Independent; Norris (Tenn.); Power; Quantity; Safety; System; Temperature; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water control

GPS: Norris Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.224167, -84.091389
GPS: Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.226389, -85.091667
00:33:14 - Water Quality Branch

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Partial Transcript: Uh, what else? Water quality.

Segment Synopsis: Brown lists the duties and responsibilities of the Water Quality Branch of the Flood Control Branch.

Keywords: Approval; Broad interpretation; Compatible; Decisions; Difficult; Discharge; Engineering labs; Environmental Impact Statements; Flood Control Branch; Help; Illegal; Improving operations; Issues; Lawsuits; Not separate; Private; Problems; Projects; Public; Release; River systems; Section 26a; Steam plants; Streams; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933; Treatment procedures; Wastewaster treatment; Water quality discharge standards; Water treatment; Water treatment systems

Subjects: Analysis; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineering; Compliance; Design; Engineering; Engineers; Fear; Flood control; Kentucky; Power; Standards; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water pollution; Water quality; Work

00:38:17 - Outside organizations and water quality

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Partial Transcript: Did, uh, TVA have a very good relationship with the states when it came to water quality?

Segment Synopsis: Brown discusses the relationship between the Water Quality Branch and outside organizations such as state governments and environmental groups on water quality standards.

Keywords: Awards; Downstream; Flood Control Branch; Good relationship; Improving water quality; Injecting oxygen; Politics; Re-airing; Stratify; Tennessee Conservationist of the Year Award; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Water Quality Branch

Subjects: Civil engineers; Dams; Engineering; Engineers; Fisheries; Fishers; Good; Honor; Oxygen; Reservoirs; State governments; Tennessee; Tennessee Conservation League; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water quality

00:40:04 - Air Quality Branch

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Partial Transcript: Now air quality--TVA involvement in air quality, would that have something to do with it getting into the business of fossil and coal plants?

Segment Synopsis: Brown describes how the Air Quality Branch of the TVA was created in response to the TVA becoming involved in building coal and steam plants. How the Air Quality Branch changed its practices throughout the years in response to environmental issues is also mentioned.

Keywords: Bad air; Clean Water Act; Coal plants; Different; Downwind; Ducts; Federal legislation; Flood Control Branch; Great Smoky Mountain National Park; Height; High stacks; Kingston Steam Plant (Harriman, Tenn.); Practices; Release; Relocation; Stacks; Steam plants; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unacceptable; White pines; White pines monitoring

Subjects: Air quality; Air--Pollution; Change; Cities; Civil engineering; Coal; Electricity; Engineering; Engineers; Good; Industries; Knoxville (Tenn.); Particles; Standards; Technique; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Weather forecasting

00:43:36 - Hydraulic Data Branch / Staff group

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Partial Transcript: One other one was the, uh--what we call the Hydraulic Data Branch.

Segment Synopsis: Brown briefly illustrates the duties of the Hydraulic Data Branch and the importance of a staff group that created computer programs for stabilizing conditions around coal plants.

Keywords: Computer programs; Efficient; Financed; Flood Control Branch; Gas turbines; Gathering data; Hydraulic Data Branch; Information; Locations; Office of Power; Operating Power System; Operations; Power loads; Rainfall; Steam plants; Streams; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Turbines

Subjects: Civil engineering; Coal; Dams; Data; Engineering; Engineers; Equipment; Fossil fuels; Hydraulics; Programs; Rain gauges; Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Water quality; Water temperature

00:46:22 - Upper-level management positions

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Partial Transcript: The, uh--I think, uh, looking at your resume I saw too that you were...

Segment Synopsis: Brown's transfer from the Flood Control Branch to various divisions in upper-level management positions are explored. Brown reveals the issues that he had with a supervisor in the Office of Natural Resources.

Keywords: Arguments; Assistant General Manager; Circumstances; Conflicts; Departure; Deputy Director of Office of Natural Resources; Different; Director of Division of Air and Water Resources; Divisions; Environmental Quality Branch; Flood Control Branch; Forestry; Grades; Happy; Leave; Office of Natural Resources; Promotions; Salary; Supervisors; TVA Board; TVA General Manager; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unsuccessful

Subjects: Chattanooga (Tenn.); Civil engineering; Employees; Knoxville (Tenn.); Management; Norris (Tenn.); Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Transfer

00:50:17 - Changes at TVA during his career / Retirement

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Partial Transcript: You saw a lot of changes in those fields, through your career in TVA. Can you talk about a few?

Segment Synopsis: Brown characterizes some of the most significant changes that occurred at the TVA throughout his career. Brown also briefly explains why he decided to retire, and the engineering work he did after officially retiring from the TVA.

Keywords: Concerned; Congressional appropriations; Contracted work; Discontinued; Division of Air and Water Resources; Family; Helpful; Ideal; Involved; Issues; Joint funding; Limited; Methods; Non-existent; Office of power; Reservoir operations; Retirement deal; Skilled; TVA Board; TVA General Manger; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Titles

Subjects: Career; Change; Civil engineers; Decision making; Devotion; Employees; Engineering; Engineering firms; Engineers; Growth; People; Programs; Retirement; Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:55:11 - Accomplishments at TVA / Catfish issue near Kentucky Dam

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Partial Transcript: Well, looking back on your career at TVA , uh, here's a tough question for you: What would you consider to be one of your major accomplishments?

Segment Synopsis: Brown reveals what he considers to be his greatest accomplishments as a TVA employee. Testifying before Congress and discovering a problem with the color of farm-raised catfish meat related to catfish slaughter methods in Kentucky waters are among Brown's personal highlights.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Bad flesh; Capability; Catfish meat; Congressional appropriations; Congressional hearing; Efforts; Environmental operations; Fertilizer; Flood Control Branch; Funding; Interesting; Judged; Kentucky Dam; No regrets; Possibilities; Reservoirs; Rewarded; Slaughter; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Total loss; Trouble; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Unmarketable

Subjects: Answering questions; Catfish; Civil engineers; Color; Dams; Electrocution; Engineering; Engineers; Farmers; Fisheries; Friend; Good; Helpfulness; Kentucky; Luck; Money; People; Promotions; Proud; Research; Respect; Staff; Technique; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.); Water quality

GPS: Kentucky Dam
Map Coordinates: 37.013056, -88.269167
00:59:35 - Incident with Corps of Engineers

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to, uh, get near the end of the interview here but I--I have one--

Segment Synopsis: Brown tells of an incident in which former TVA Chairman Aubrey 'Red' Wagner disobeyed orders from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Generals to flood a Kentucky reservoir to save farmland alongside the Mississippi River. Brown shares his perspective on the incident, and explains why he advised Wagner not to flood the Kentucky reservoir. Brown also talks of his assistance in writing a special memorandum that outlines the specific procedures to follow during future incidents of this type.

Keywords: Aubrey 'Red' Wagner; Consultation; Coordination; Disobeyed; Effects; Face-off; Farmlands; Flood control; Flooding rights; Heights; Land rights; Lawsuits; Memorandum; Mississippi River Commission; Not guaranteed; Orders; Refused; Reported; Riverside; Supervisors; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Timing; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Uncontrolled canal; Upstream; Violation of land rights

Subjects: Barkley Lake (Ky. and Tenn.); Cumberland River, Big South Fork (Tenn. and Ky.); Dikes (Engineering); Farmers; Flood control; Floods; Generals; Kentucky; Knoxville (Tenn.); Meeting; Mississippi River; Ohio River; Reservoirs; Risk; Shock; Tennessee; Tennessee River; Tennessee Valley Authority; Threats; Writing

01:05:35 - Building Lake Guntersville State Park

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Partial Transcript: The park down at Guntersville, where the, uh, retirees' annual get together at Guntersville Reservoir is on a piece of park land down there.

Segment Synopsis: Brown details his involvement in constructing a park along the Guntersville Reservoir in Alabama.

Keywords: Barns; Construction; Contracts; Development; General Counsel's Office; Government money; Guntersville Reservoir; Illegal; Matched money; Parks; Picnics; TVARA Retirees; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Subjects: Alabama; Budget; Guntersville (Ala.); Money; Reservoirs; Retirement; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Guntersville (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.348056, -86.294444
01:07:23 - Interpreting and working within the law

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Partial Transcript: One other quick thing the--when Sequoyah was being built it was a small, uh, uh, water supply company there.

Segment Synopsis: Brown provides several illustrations of having to work within the law, including an interesting story during the construction of the Sequoyah Nuclear Plant.

Keywords: Attorneys; Backhoes; Downstream; Duties; Expansion; Flexibility; General Counsel's Office; Interesting; Land; Laws; Move; Power score; Public warning system; River systems; Roles; Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (Tenn.); Signed; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Turbines; Water Supply Company

Subjects: Change; Dams; Electricity; Fishers; Fishing; Flood control; Hamilton County (Tenn.); Horns; Navigation; Nuclear energy; Retirement; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time

GPS: Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.226389, -85.091667
01:10:12 - Unusual co-workers

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Partial Transcript: I don't know what I've left out.

Segment Synopsis: Brown lists some of the more outlandish things he witnessed from his colleagues at the TVA.

Keywords: Adding machines; Biracial; Co-workers; Crazy; Desk drawers; FBI Office; Files; Grievances; Guns; Helicopters; Help; Lunches; Managers; Nervous; Persecuted; Personnel offices; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trash cans; Unbalanced

Subjects: Comparisons; Life; Paper; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

01:12:18 - Work after retirement

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Partial Transcript: Well, I, uh, can't come up with any other questions for you.

Segment Synopsis: Brown discusses his engineering work during the Mozambican Civil War in the early 1980s. Brown details the poverty and the conditions in which delegates surrounded themselves, compared to the lives of average Mozambicans.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Ambassador's Office; Aubrey Wagner; Bad; Busy; Delegates; Droughts; Government; Grants; Mozambican Civil War; Need for education; Rebels; Reports; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Toilets; Uninvolved

Subjects: Cashews; Coal mines and mining; Communism; Democracy; Education; Engineering; Fancy; Fisheries; Friend; Joy; Memories; Money; Mozambique; Natural resources; Opportunity; Portuguese; Poverty; Retirement; Soviet Union; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; United Nations; Water; Work