Interview with Lawrence Calvert, June 7, 2017

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:02 - Being hired at TVA

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Partial Transcript: --Uh--the following is an oral history interview conducted in part of the Tennessee Valley Authority Retirees Association Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert explains how he came to be hired by the TVA. Calvert also briefly talks of his career as a naval officer prior to his career at the TVA.

Keywords: Federal agencies; Information Office; Interviews; Resumes; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); U.S. Navy; University

Subjects: Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962; Journalism; New York times; Pentagon; Résumés (Employment); Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington Post

00:02:40 - TVA career overview

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Partial Transcript: Could you give me a--just a thumbnail sketch of your whole TVA career?

Segment Synopsis: Calvert provides an overview of his career trajectory at TVA, including all of the various positions he held throughout a thirty year career.

Keywords: Assistant directors; Assistants; Board of Directors; Corporate management; Directors; Economic Community Division; Forest Land Planning; Land Resources Division; Line operations; Reorganization; Speech writers; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Knoxville (Tenn.); Norris (Tenn.); Perspective; Public relations; Retirement; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:06:43 - Background with TVA

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Partial Transcript: You started out in the Information Office, you said.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert details his personal connections to TVA. Calvert's father was an engineer who worked for TVA beginning in the 1930s. Additionally, Calvert discusses the idealism and vision of the original TVA employees and how this impacted his career objectives.

Keywords: Approach; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Fresh; Highway Railway Design Branch; Information Office; Middle Tennessee; Missions; Office of Engineering; Original employees; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Childhood; Engineers; Fathers; Journalism; Management; Perspective; Religion; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.); Work

00:09:45 - Memories of the original TVA

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Partial Transcript: --Uh--if you could share with us any--uh--you know, special memories during that period.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert shares some of his memories of the original TVA of the 1930s. Calvert discusses an experience with former TVA Chairman Aubrey J. Wagner.

Keywords: Aubrey J. Wagner; Bull Run Fossil Plant; Bull Run Steam Plant; Construction; Fontana Dam; Indoctrination; Information Office; Projects; TVA Chairman; TVA plane; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Childhood; Coal; Concrete; Engineers; Fathers; Life; Mississippi River; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); Oak Ridge (Tenn.); Rocks; Speech; Steel; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

GPS: Fontana Dam
Map Coordinates: 35.452222, -83.804722
GPS: Bull Run Fossil Plant
Map Coordinates: 36.021111, -84.156111
00:12:39 - Issues at TVA during the 1960s

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Partial Transcript: At that time when you began work, uh, in the Information Office, uh, what were some of the issues that were foremost in, I guess, TVA's mind?

Segment Synopsis: Calvert details some of the primary issues that the TVA faced during the 1960s. Calvert discusses some of the challenges for the Information Office during this time, especially regarding the perceived inefficiency of government-run power plants.

Keywords: Coal plant; Congress; Construction boom; Customers; Efficiency ratings; Fixed costs; Government; Inefficient; Issues; Kilowatts; Marginal difference; Office of Information; Paradise Combined Cycle Plant; Paradise Fossil Plant; Paradise Steam Plant; Power Service Area; Power program; Private Power Companies; Reader's Digest; Steam plants; Subsidized; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Threats

Subjects: Articles; Coal; Dams; Data; Electricity; Illinois; Kentucky; Missouri; Money; People; Power-plants; Public relations; Steam; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Paradise Combined Cycle Plant
Map Coordinates: 37.25, -86.97
00:17:54 - TVA and congressional funding

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Partial Transcript: When you were in the Information Office--uh--could we speak a little bit about the other activities that TVA was involved with that were supported primarily by congressional appropriations.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert characterizes the dynamics between TVA and Congress, with an emphasis upon when TVA was seeking federal funding via congressional appropriations.

Keywords: Approach; Audience; Congress; Congressional Appropriations; Congressional appropriations; Conservative government; Development; Efficiency; Influence; Involvement; Lobby; Mood; Office of Tributary Area Development (OTAD); Outreach; Positive; Programs; Promotions; Representative; Schools; Template; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Contacts; Icons; Information; Media; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); Norris (Tenn.); People; Planning; Public relations; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:23:08 - Work in the Information Office / John F. Kennedy's visit to TVA

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Partial Transcript: In particular--uh,--when you were in the Information Office, did you primarily write speeches or did you do a lot of other types of activities?

Segment Synopsis: Calvert details what his primary duties in the Information Office consisted of. Calvert also briefly discusses John F. Kennedy's visit to the TVA office in Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

Keywords: Employee newsletters; Information Office; Internal publications; John F. Kennedy; Magazines; Material; Speech writers; Successful; TVA Annual Report; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Audience; Careers; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); Presidents; Press releases; Public relations; Responsibility; Speeches; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Writing

00:27:01 - TVA's Washington, D.C. office / Borrowing authority

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Partial Transcript: I'm gonna make you jump then to your new position in Washington.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert reflects upon his time spent working in the Washington, D.C. office of TVA. The relationship between Congress and TVA is examined. Additionally, Calvert highlights some of the challenges that TVA encountered from Congress when utilizing its borrowing authority powers.

Keywords: Administrative policies; Alignments; Approach; Bill; Bob Jones; Borrowing authority; Congress; Congressman; D.C. Representatives; Expansion; Federal agencies; Friends; Intense; Mentality; Natural Resources Committee; Opponents; Opposed; Personalities; Relatives; Royalties; Staggered board; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Vote

Subjects: Alabama; Allegiance; Information; Lawyers; Leadership; Lobbying; Mentors; New Hampshire; Opportunity; Pressure; Speech; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

00:35:56 - TVA and environmental legislation

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Partial Transcript: That was a period of time when there was a lot of very important--uh--oh, environmental legislation being passed that changed our world.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert articulates how the environmental movement and environmental legislation impacted the TVA.

Keywords: Chief executive officer (CEO); Clean Air Act; Conglomerates (Corporations); Congress; East Tennessee; Economic growth; Endangered Species Act; Environmental Protection Agency; Environmental legislation; Environmental movement; Farmland; Fish; Misinterpreted; Mistrust; Position; Power company lobby; Rationale; Tellico; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Endangered species; Historic; Interest; Management; Native Americans; Power; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

00:42:30 - TVA and Clean Air Act / Surface Mine Reclamation Act

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Partial Transcript: I was really proud of the--of myself and my staff--uh--small as it was for--uh--helping convince the TVA board...

Segment Synopsis: Calvert explains how he and his staff convinced the upper management of the TVA to support the Clean Air Act.

Keywords: Clean Air Act; Senate hearing; Senator Baker; Support; Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977; TVA Chairman; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Hearing; Staff; Strip mining; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

00:44:09 - TVA policy

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Partial Transcript: You were in a position--uh--certainly not to make--uh--TVA policy but from time to time you could maybe--uh--

Segment Synopsis: Calvert describes TVA policy, and the level of competitiveness present at the TVA during the annual appropriations period.

Keywords: Added funds; Analysis; Annual appropriations; Board of Directors; Chairman Wagner; Colleagues; Congress; Congressional districts; Difficult; Don McBride; Frank Smith; Friends; Hierarchy; Obligated; Office of Management and Budget; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Woodward Building (Washington, D.C.)

Subjects: Allegiance; Budgets; Competition; Corporations; Future; Management; Money; Pressure; Programs; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

00:50:32 - Return to Tennessee Valley

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Partial Transcript: You returned to the Tennessee Valley.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert discusses his career in the TVA Tennessee branch and highlights some of the changes made to the organization during this time as a result of a new chairman, S. David Freeman.

Keywords: Chairman; Directors; Economic Community Division; Forest Land Planning; Qualifications; S. David Freeman; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Assistants; Change; Knoxville (Tenn.); Lobbyists; Norris (Tenn.); Staff; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time

GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:54:37 - Land management & natural resources programs

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Partial Transcript: Now, what was the range of activities that were--you had some responsibility for overseeing when you were in Norris?

Segment Synopsis: Calvert reflects upon some of the most important projects and functions he oversaw during his tenure at the Forest Land Planning and the Economic Community Divisions of the TVA.

Keywords: Approach; Bowater Paper Mill; Directors; Eastern Tennessee; Economic Community Division; Environmental Education Program; Field offices; Forest Land Planning; Forest industry development; Forested land; Land management; Natural resources programs; Ownership; Resource development; Responsibilities; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tree planting; Western Kentucky

Subjects: Bureaucracy; Knoxville (Tenn.); Mentors; Natural resources; Norris (Tenn.); Outreach; Programs; Recreation; Reservoirs; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
00:59:16 - Memories / Internal competition for funding

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Partial Transcript: Are there any--uh--special memories that, uh, stick out?

Segment Synopsis: Calvert shares some of the most impactful memories of the TVA throughout the years, including how competitive and hierarchical the TVA was.

Keywords: Assistant managers; Colleagues; Congress; Difficult; Economic Community Division; Fights; Friendly; Hierarchy; Land resources; Operation costs; Operation managers; Shortages; TVA Management; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Unexpected; Unity

Subjects: Budgets; Competition; Directors; Management; Meeting; Memories; Money; Natural resources; Norris (Tenn.); Outreach; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167
01:04:22 - Changes to TVA

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Partial Transcript: Well, there were a lot of changes occurring too that made people more--uh--I don't know, defensive.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert evaluates the changes that occurred to the TVA throughout his career.

Keywords: Artur Glikson; Balance; Integrated resource development; Projects; S. David Freeman; Shortages; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Change; Management; Money; Programs; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

01:07:10 - Scale and reputation of TVA

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Partial Transcript: And back in those days we were still receiving--uh--hundreds of foreign visitors every year.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert details the positive international reputation that the TVA received due to both its size and efficiency.

Keywords: Achievements; Appropriated budgets; Eloquence; Improvements; Lands; New; Newspapers; Quotes; Scale; Self-funding; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Visitors; Watershed

Subjects: Analysis; Budgets; Decatur (Ala.); Demonstrations; Earth; Example; Geography; Model; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Unique

01:11:03 - Impact of TVA

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Partial Transcript: But they did have an impact outside the Tennessee Valley.

Segment Synopsis: Calvert details the impact of TVA in Washington, D.C. as well as the perceptions of the TVA according to Congress and other federal agencies.

Keywords: Assistants; Congress; Congressional Relations Specialists; Federal agencies; Private companies; Secretary; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Washington, D.C. Office

Subjects: Employees; Lobbyists; Management; Outreach; People; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)

01:14:54 - Communicating early TVA values / Relevance of TVA’s approach

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Partial Transcript: We're winding this down but I want to ask you--and I'll give you a little time to think about it if you'd like--but what do you think is your--was your major accomplishment at TVA?

Segment Synopsis: Calvert considers his greatest accomplishments as an employee at the TVA, with an emphasis upon the impact of his work at the Economic Community Division. Calvert then evaluates the philosophy of TVA currently, and discusses how TVA's original principles can be applied to modern-day issues such as climate change.

Keywords: Abilities; Accomplishments; Approach; Community Development Projects; Cultural relations; Economic Community Division; Guidance; Guide; Ideas; Influence; Innovative; Issues; Resources; Societal needs; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Washington, D.C. Office

Subjects: Behavior; Climate change; Demonstrations; Management; Outreach; Philosophy; Planning; Programs; Rural; Society; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Washington (D.C.)