Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Shields, August 11, 2020

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

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

Segment Synopsis: John Shields talks about how he heard about Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and how he acquired a position with the organization.

Keywords: Connections; Florence (Ala.); Hiring processes; Job interviews; Master's degrees; Networking; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); University of Kentucky

Subjects: Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Education, Higher.; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work.

GPS: University of Kentucky
Map Coordinates: 38.033333, -84.5
GPS: Florence (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.820278, -87.662778
00:02:23 - Career at TVA

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Partial Transcript: What did you, uh, do in your first job? Do you remember your first assignment?

Segment Synopsis: Shields talks about his first position as a staff economist in the Division of Agricultural Development at TVA. He also talks about teams within TVA, work with watershed economy, and TVA involvement in the fertilizer industry.

Keywords: Agricultural economics; Chemical fertilizers; Contractors; Duck River (Tenn.); Economic development studies; Economic regions; Elk River (Tenn. and Ala.); Elk River watershed; Experiment stations; Experimental research; Extension service; Farming practices; Fertilizer technology; Field staff; French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.); Interdisciplinary development; Knoxville (Tenn.); Land-grant institutions; Organizational leadership; Personal satisfaction; Projects; Regional leadership; Staff members; TVA Headquarters; Team studies; Teamwork; Technology transfer; Tennessee River Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tennessee Valley Authority. Division of Agricultural Development; Test demonstration farms; Upper Duck River Watershed (Tenn.); Watershed development; Watershed economy; Watersheds

Subjects: Agricultural economists; Agriculture--Economic aspects.; Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Economic development.; Economists; Fertilizers.; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work.

GPS: Duck River (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.941944, -87.933889
GPS: French Broad River (N.C. and Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.959167, -83.85
GPS: Knoxville (Tenn.)
Map Coordinates: 35.9617, -83.9232
GPS: Elk River (Tenn. and Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.761389, -87.265556
00:12:48 - Fertilizer work at TVA

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, you were introducing, uh, new techniques. Was this primarily, uh, fertilizer or this was more broadly farming practices?

Segment Synopsis: Shields talks about TVA's work in the fertilizer industry and TVA's work on the national and international levels.

Keywords: Company histories; Fertilizer production; Fertilizer technology; Global programs; International programs; International work; Munitions production; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); National programs; Nitrate plants; Peace time; Phosphate facilities; TVA Act; Tennessee River Valley; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); War times; World War, 1914-1918.

Subjects: Fertilizer industry; Fertilizers--Analysis.; Fertilizers--Application; Fertilizers.; Technology.; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Muscle Shoals (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.750833, -87.650278
00:17:43 - TVA’s teaching approach / Test demonstration farms

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Partial Transcript: That's interesting. I'm going to jump back now to your job as a staff economist.

Segment Synopsis: Shields talks about TVA teaching through involvement with test demonstration farms. He talks about teaching farming techniques and technologies to local farmers.

Keywords: Agricultural development; Agricultural economists; Economists; Employees; Farming techniques; Farming technology; Staff economists; Technology.; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Test demonstration farms

Subjects: Agriculture.; Careers.; Farmers.; Farms.; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:19:37 - International work experiences with TVA / Friendships at TVA

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Partial Transcript: Well tell me about, uh, your, uh--the period where you began to learn that and, uh, as an ag, uh--or a staff economist in ag development or, or whatever came later.

Segment Synopsis: Shields talks about his international work roles at TVA and friendships he made through TVA.

Keywords: Agricultural development; Communication.; Contracts; Country development; Don McCune; Engineers; Farmers; Farms.; Food Agriculture Organization (FAO); Friends; Friendships; International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC); International programs; International roles; International staff; International teams; International work; Morocco.; Muscle Shoals (Ala.); National development; Natural resources; Networking; Norman Borlaug; Phosphate; Program funding; Staff economists; Surveys; Technology transfer; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Tennessee Valley Authority. Division of Agricultural Development; Travel.; United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Washington (D.C.); Workplace relationships

Subjects: Agricultural economists; Economists; Fertilizer industry; Fertilizers.; Friendship.; Interpersonal relations.; Professional relationships; Technology.; Tennessee Valley Authority

GPS: Morocco
Map Coordinates: 32, -6
GPS: Washington (D.C.)
Map Coordinates: 38.9101, -77.0147
GPS: Muscle Shoals (Ala.)
Map Coordinates: 34.750833, -87.650278
00:29:43 - More on career at TVA / Impact of TVA talent and change

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Partial Transcript: You, uh, were doing this as a staff economist but then, uh--I'm looking at your resume that, uh--at some point, you became the Director of, uh, Division of Agricultural Development.

Segment Synopsis: Shields talks about his role as the Director of the Division of Agricultural Development at TVA. He also talks about various positive impacts of TVA.

Keywords: Administration; Administrators; Agricultural development; Agricultural economists; Artificial intelligence; Billy Bond; Collaboration; Consulting groups; Cooperation; Division directors; Domestic programs; Economists; Experimental products; Fertilizer technology; Interdisciplinary work; International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC); International programs; International staff; Jobs; Marvin Runyon; National Fertilizer Environmental Research Center; National environment movement; National policy group; Policy groups; Program directors; Program funding; Public funding; Public patents; Research; Staff economists; Team management; Technology development; Technology transfer; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); United States Agency for International Development (USAID); Work responsibilities

Subjects: Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Fertilizer industry; Fertilizers.; Technology.; Tennessee Valley Authority; Tennessee Valley Authority. Division of Agricultural Development; Work.

00:46:09 - Chemical fertilizers

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Partial Transcript: I'm going to interrupt you a minute and, and ask you to get a bit technical or more technical but just as background...

Segment Synopsis: Shields discusses the pros and cons of chemical fertilizer.

Keywords: Chemical fertilizers; Crops; Environmental impacts; Farming; Farming methods; Farming practices; Fertilizer elements; Fertilizer ingredients; Fertilizer runoff; Fertilizer technology; Food production; Growing crops; Studies; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Subjects: Agriculture.; Farmers.; Farms.; Fertilizer industry; Fertilizers.; Research.; Tennessee Valley Authority

00:50:58 - Broadened responsibilities at TVA

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Partial Transcript: Yes, and, and, uh, that's good background for the type of situation that you were in to have, to have--manage and, uh, manage through in the, in the 1980s and later.

Segment Synopsis: Shields talks about his roles as an office manager and senior vice president at TVA.

Keywords: Collaboration; Congressional appropriations; Congressional funding; Funding; Jobs; Marvin Runyon; National Fertilizer Development Center; Non-power programs; Office managers; Power distribution; Power production; Program funding; River development; River navigation; Senior vice presidents; Teams; Technology development; Technology.; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); Work responsibilities

Subjects: Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Leadership.; Management.; Tennessee Valley Authority; Work.

01:01:14 - Lasting impacts of TVA’s work

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to, uh--you, you know, in talking about the, uh, the bulk of your career with agricultural development and, and fertilizer in particular--uh, you've kind of answered this, but, um, I'll give you a chance to say more about it if you'd like, uh, but how did you and your work group, uh, bring a f--bring about a lasting impact?

Segment Synopsis: Shields discusses what he thinks the impact of his career at TVA has been on the world, environment, and agriculture in general.

Keywords: Agricultural development; Agricultural productivity; Career impacts; Collaborations; Farmers; Fertilizer technology; Food production; Industrialists; Networking; Patents; Researchers; Teamwork; Technology development; Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA); World hunger

Subjects: Agriculture.; Career moves; Careers & opportunities; Careers.; Communication.; Fertilizer industry; Fertilizers.; Technology.; Tennessee Valley Authority