Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Michael Parker, November 15, 2019

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

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

Segment Synopsis: Parker discusses how he was hired at TVA, as well as his background in architecture.

Keywords: Architect; Architectural branch; Architectural projects; Branch Chief; Check-in; Classmate; Community; Design and Construction branch; Exciting; Finished; Firm; Graduates; Happy; Hiring; Interesting; Involved; Joined; Kansas City riots; Lead designer; List; Moving; Paperwork; Parks and recreation; Planning and Design branch; Projects; Roland Wank; Service; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Thinking; Visit; Wither Adkins

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Bridges; Community development; Design; Experience; Friend; Kansas; Kansas City (Mo.); Kansas State University; Oak Ridge (Tenn.); Planning; Power; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

GPS: Kansas City (Mo.)
Map Coordinates: 39.099722, -94.578333
GPS: Oak Ridge (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.010278, -84.269722
00:05:12 - TVA Architectural Branch work

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Partial Transcript: In 1970 when you arrived--uh--what--uh--sorts of work--uh--was the architecture branch working on and more specifically, what was your first assignment?

Segment Synopsis: Parker describes the initial work he did in his first position in the architectural branch at TVA.

Keywords: Additions; Airplane; Airport; Alcoa Highway Planning study; Architectural branch; Assignment; Attractiveness; City officials; Construction; Dangerous; Design and Planning branch; Divisions; Elevation; Facilities; Firm; First; Fossil plants; Goal; Groups; Hydropower plants; Impacted; Industry; Involved; Land use; Landscape projects; Ongoing; Parks and recreation; Power generation; Program; Project; Proposal; Raccoon Mountain project; Recommendations; Road; Road travel; Sketches; Small town; State; Submitted; Support; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Alabama; Architects; Architecture; Areas; Athens (Ala.); Blount County (Tenn.); Bowling Green (Ky.); Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant; Building; Coeburn (Va.); Community development; Counties; Design; Drawing; Duffield (Va.); Economic development; Floods; Fulton (Ky.); Knox County (Tenn.); Knoxville (Tenn.); Learning; Maps; Maryville (Tenn.); Norton (Va.); Nuclear power plants; Planning; Promotions; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Traffic engineers

GPS: Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
Map Coordinates: 34.703889, -87.118611
GPS: Athens (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.789722, -86.969444
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Maryville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.749722, -83.975833
GPS: Knox County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.99, -83.94
GPS: Norton (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 36.936667, -82.625
GPS: Duffield (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 36.719722, -82.7975
GPS: Fulton (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.509167, -88.878889
GPS: Bowling Green (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.981667, -86.444444
GPS: Blount County (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.69, -83.93
GPS: Coeburn (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 36.943889, -82.466111
00:09:49 - Stories of first job at TVA

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Partial Transcript: But, there was always interesting things that I learned.

Segment Synopsis: Parker details working as an architect in small towns in the 1970s and how this work was challenging in some aspects.

Keywords: Architectural branch; Brothels; City council; City officials; Co-exist; Combination; Design process; Driving; Economic development agency; Example; Fee; Fence; Grants; Groundwork; Implementation; Interesting; Involved; Mayor; Moonshine; Needs; Office space; Parking; Plans; Potential; Private sector; Program; Project; Proposal; Rejected; Relationship; Renderings; Road systems; Schematics; Sex workers; Shocked; Sophisticated; Specifications; Supporter; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Bowling Green (Ky.); Budget; Building; Criticism; Design; Duffield (Va.); Engineers; Good; Management; Money; Norton (Va.); Planners; Structure; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Work

GPS: Bowling Green (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 36.981667, -86.444444
GPS: Norton (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 36.936667, -82.625
GPS: Duffield (Va.)
Map Coordinates: 36.719722, -82.7975
00:13:46 - Promotion / Dynamics of Architectural Branch

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Partial Transcript: How long did you work on these types of projects? Or, you--what was your first--you were in the Architectural Branch for how long, let's say?

Segment Synopsis: Parker talks of his promotion within the architectural branch early in his career. Parker also assesses the dynamics of the architectural branch.

Keywords: Adapt; Architectural branch; Architecture and Design branch; Assignment; Assistant Branch Chief; Award; Boss; Branches; Bridge; Bridge design; Commercial-grade structures; Commercial-scale; Conceptual design; Design & Production office; Design assistance; Divisions; Engineering, Design and Construction Branch; Flexibility; Help; Integrate; Involved; Labs; Large facilities; Lead; Lease; Manager of Design; Move; Office; Office space; Projects; Quick; Road improvement; Small; Sticking point; TVA Board; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Turbines; Win; Withers Adkins

Subjects: Ability; Aesthetics; Architects; Architecture; Civil engineers; Design; Electrical engineering; Interior design; Interior designers; Management; Mechanical engineering; Office buildings; Promotion; Responsibility; Staff; Structural engineering; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work

00:20:14 - Recognition of work outside of Tennessee Valley

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Partial Transcript: Was the significance of your work of any kind recognized beyond the Tennessee Valley in those days?

Segment Synopsis: Parker recalls which projects he participated in that were recognized nationally. Projects include a solar home initiative in the Tennessee Valley and TVA's barge exhibit at the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville.

Keywords: 1982 World's Fair; Alternative energy; Architectural branch; Atrium; Atrium-based housing; Barge project; Bauhaus (artistic movement); Block model; Book; Bridge; Complicated; Construction; Criteria; Different; Displays; Efficiency; Energy conscious; Energy conservation; Environmental conditions; Exhibits; Focused; Fun; Help; Information; Integrated; Integration; Locals; Manual; Models; Movement; Natural environment; New construction; Non-existent; Power generation; Presidential Design Awards; Prize for Excellence in Design; Projects; Recognized; Representation; River; Roland Wank; Ronald Reagan; S. David Freeman; Senior home; Share; Solar application; Solar design; Solar homes; Solar power; Technical Assistance program; Technical skills; Tennessee Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Transportation; Understanding; Unusual; Water resources; Weather data; Wildlife

Subjects: Aesthetics; Animals; Architects; Architecture; Art; Awards; Businesses; Children; Cost; Countries; Dams; Data; Diversity; Economic Development; Energy conservation; Good; Graphic design; History; Knoxville (Tenn.); Natural resources; Otters; People; Philosophy; Popular; Research; Schools; Solar energy; Structure; Sun; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Volunteers; Weather; Work

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
00:26:39 - Barn project

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Partial Transcript: Oh, the barn project.

Segment Synopsis: Parker talks of a barn building project that he participated in to assist farmers who lost their barns due to flooding.

Keywords: Attention; Aubrey 'Red' Wagner; Awards committee; Barn project; Community; Context; Engineering, Design and Construction branch; Flood plain; Historical preservation; Integration; Lead; Nails; Period; Project; S. David Freeman; TVA Chairman; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Barns; Design; Farmers; Floods; Labor; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Volunteer; Work

00:28:50 - S. David Freeman and solar energy

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Partial Transcript: And then Freeman came in, who was known for shaking up TVA.

Segment Synopsis: Parker describes some of the philosophical changes that occurred at TVA once S. David Freeman became the Chairman of the Board, with the introduction of solar energy being the primary change.

Keywords: Basic; Basic design principles; Busy; Commercial; Concept; Conservation; Cool; Cutting-edge; Days of sunlight; Degree days; Different; Direction; East; Fine; Follow-up; Friends; George Kimmons; Informed; Interior-dominated (architecture); Lights; North; Not constant; Office; Office of Engineering, Design & Construction (OEDC); Office of Power; Parameters; Passive solar; Phone call; Private sector; Problem; Process; Recruitment; Residential; S. David Freeman; Skeptical; Skin-dominated (architecture); South; Study; Sunlight; TVA Chairman; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Universities; Unsure; Western United States; Windows

Subjects: Air conditioning; Ancestors; Architects; Architecture; Arizona; California; Change; Design; Electricity; Energy; Engineering; Heating; Hierarchy; Nuclear power plants; People; Research; Solar energy; Structures; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; United States

00:34:03 - Solar houses

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Partial Transcript: When you built these houses, who built them? Was it entirely TVA or did you work with local homebuilders?

Segment Synopsis: Parker explains the benefits of solar housing, and how TVA decided to go about constructing residential homes with solar energy capabilities.

Keywords: Chattanooga office; Client; Concerned; Conservative; Construction; Demonstration agency; Direction; Fossil fuel plants; Help; Houses; Hydropower; Jimmy Carter; Large building; Local builder; Location; Lost data; Mission; Nice; Non-maintenance; Office of Power; Orientation; Passive; Passive solar; Plans; Private sector; Records; Reduced energy costs; Residential; S. David Freeman; Scattered; Simple; Solar power; Study; Techniques; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Turbulent; Urban; Variation

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Design; Drawings; Energy conservation; Fossil fuels; Knowledge; Knoxville (Tenn.); Learning; Nuclear energy; Rural; Skylights; Solar energy; Survival; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Ventilation

GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
00:37:59 - Chattanooga office complex

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about that project.

Segment Synopsis: Parker talks of a TVA project to convert a vacant lot in downtown Chattanooga into an office complex.

Keywords: Advantage; Anchor; Atrium; Bid; Big; Briefing; Business leaders; Center; Central atrium; Central location; Chattanooga Area; Chattanooga office building; Chattanooga office complex; Chosen; City anchor; Comfortable; Commercial; Competitors; Concept; Conference room; Contract; Craftsmanship; Decision; Decorations; Derelict; Development; Direction; Disperse; Display space; Downtown; Example; Facilities; Fee; Firms; First; Help; Industrial buildings; Integrated atrium; Interesting; Internationally-known; Interview; Involved; Lam Lighting; Large; Last; Lighting load; Local economy; Location; Lot; Natural light; New office; Owned; Passive solar; Presidential awards; Problem; Project; Reduced lighting load; Reflection; Retail; Revitalization; S. David Freeman; Selected; Separate; Shaughnessy Mechanical Engineering; Significant; Site; Solar architects; Split up; Task lighting; Team; Teamwork; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); The Architects Collaborative (TAC); Tracking; Traffic; Vacant lots; Workspace

Subjects: Architecture; Arizona; Art; Artisans; Awards; Buildings; Business; California; Cambridge (Mass.); Chattanooga (Tenn.); Design; Economics; Elements; Employees; Energy conservation; Engineering; Glass; Heat; History; Housing; Houston (Tex.); Interest; Interior design; Light; Management; Mayors; Mechanical engineering; Mobiles; Office buildings; People; Philosophy; Planning; Property; Quilts; Rent; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill; Streets; Structure; Structures; Sun; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Travel; Work

GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Houston (Tex.)
Map Coordinates: 29.762778, -95.383056
GPS: Cambridge (Mass.)
Map Coordinates: 42.373611, -71.110556
00:47:55 - Chattanooga office complex and interior design

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Partial Transcript: By that time, Marvin Runyon was involved.

Segment Synopsis: Parker discusses some of the results of the Chattanooga office complex project.

Keywords: Architectural branch; Blocking light; Chattanooga office complex; Class; Closed office; Collaborative work; Confused; Dismay; Efficiency; Efficient; Fine; Flexibility; Furniture; Future; Increased energy use; Interested; Marvin Runyon; Occupying; Open office space; Open space; Opponent; Overhead lights; Panels; Problems; Solar lighting approach; Streamline; Study; Support; TVA Management; Task lighting; Team building; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Users

Subjects: Air; Architects; Architecture; Building; Challenges; Change; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Energy conservation; Heat; Interior designers; Light; Management; People; Philosophy; Teaching; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Time; Walls

GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
00:50:50 - Shift in career

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Partial Transcript: Well, no not really, that's when I kinda did a shift.

Segment Synopsis: Parker explains why his career at TVA shifted away from architecture to Organization Development and Training.

Keywords: Chief Architect; Design and Construction branch; Downsizing; Downtown; Group; Head Trainer; Keep; Line manager; Marvin Runyon; No plants; Obvious; Office of Engineering, Design, and Construction; Organization Development and Training; Recognized; Team building; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Trainer; Training re-education; Well-managed; Workforce; Working together; Years

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Building; Change; Design; Engineering; Good; Interest; Maintenance; Management; People; Retirement; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Training

00:53:07 - Memories of TVA

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Partial Transcript: Well looking back over your whole career--uh--what were some of your favorite memories?

Segment Synopsis: Parker shares some of his favorite memories of working at TVA.

Keywords: Above; Approach; Architecture firm; Barge exhibit; Bellefonte Nuclear Plant (Ala.); Best design; Cancelled; Cheap; Concept; Different; Environmentalist; Favorite; Flagship; Focus; Fossil plants; Great lake; Hard rock mining; Hartsville Nuclear Plant (Tenn.); Head of Design; Hydropower; Idea; Inadequate; Integrate; Integrated; Interesting; Involved; Lake; Lesson; Level; Manager of Design; Manpower; Modular; Modular approach; Modular system; Mountain; Mountaintop; Multifunctional; Never built; Nuclear energy regulations; Occupancy; Office; Office structure; Parks and recreation; Phipps Bend Nuclear Plant (Tenn.); Plans; Power site; Processes; Project; Pump storage facility; Quick; Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant; Repeatable; Requirements; Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (Tenn.); Site plants; Stayed; Storage; Storage capacity; Strongpoints; Talent; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Training facilities; Training program; Two units; Unhappy; Uninvolved; Unusual; Visitor's facility; Wildlife

Subjects: Alabama; Architects; Architecture; Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant; Building; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Coal miners and mining; Design; Diversity; Electricity; Engineers; First; Historians; Kansas City (Mo.); Management; Mississippi; Months; Nuclear energy; Nuclear power plants; Nuclear reactors; Organization; Pennsylvania; People; Plants; Power; Pressure; Security; Space; Structures; System; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant (Pa.); Turbines; Work; Yellow Creek Nuclear Power Plant (Miss.)

GPS: Sequoyah Nuclear Plant (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.226389, -85.091667
GPS: Bellefonte Nuclear Plant (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.708611, -85.929167
GPS: Phipps Bend Nuclear Plant (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.466944, -82.8075
GPS: Raccoon Mountain Pumped-Storage Plant
Map Coordinates: 35.048333, -85.396667
GPS: Hartsville Nuclear Plant (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.349167, -86.084167
GPS: Kansas City (Mo.)
Map Coordinates: 39.099722, -94.578333
GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant
Map Coordinates: 34.703889, -87.118611
GPS: Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant (Pa.)
Map Coordinates: 40.153889, -76.724722
GPS: Yellow Creek Nuclear Power Plant (Miss.)
Map Coordinates: 34.96, -88.21
01:02:26 - Accomplishments at TVA

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to ask you, what was your most important accomplishment?

Segment Synopsis: Parker considers some of the things that he has accomplished as a TVA employee.

Keywords: Accomplishments; Anywhere; Attractive; Award-winning; Branch; Chattanooga office building; Code writers; Construction; Direction; Disappeared; Enjoyed; Firm; Functional; Gone; Inability; Interesting; Involved; Learned; Managing a team; Manpower; Not completed; Nuclear Plant (Tenn.); Organization development; Outgrew; Paint specialists; Practicing architecture; Progressive; Projects; Small; Small firms; Stay together; Talent; Team; Team building; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Building; Chattanooga (Tenn.); Comparisons; Counseling; Employees; Good; Interior designers; Kansas City (Mo.); Landscape architects; Management; Organization; People; Structure; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority; Training

GPS: Chattanooga (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.045556, -85.267222
GPS: Kansas City (Mo.)
Map Coordinates: 39.099722, -94.578333
01:06:04 - Final thoughts

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything that--uh--or are there any--are there any questions that I have not asked that you wished I had asked?

Segment Synopsis: Parker gives some final thoughts on his career at TVA.

Keywords: Approach; Architect; Architectural branch; Architectural statement; Backstories; Bad; Chairman; Completeness; Connected; Dam; Different; Early work; Engineering dam; Eras; Existing; First; Flows; Follow through; Form; Function; Help; Impressive; Industrial siting; Issue; Left; Norris Dam (Tenn.); Obvious; Political; Precedent; Present; Process; Roland Wank; Scale; Social; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Subjects: Architects; Architecture; Design; Engineering; Engineers; Good; History; Legacy; Listening; Management; Norris (Tenn.); Research; Tennessee; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Norris Dam (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.224167, -84.091389
GPS: Norris (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 36.199444, -84.069167