David Lilienthal

David Lilienthal

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David Lilienthal had already developed a reputation as a fighter for the public interest when he became one of the three directors of the newly formed Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933. In 1946, he became the first chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission.David Eli Lilienthal was born on July 8, 1899, into a family of Jewish immigrants from Czechoslovakia, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa from DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana, while still 20 years old and received a law degree from Harvard Law School three years later.Lilienthal returned to the Midwest to take a job with a Chicago law firm. In 1930, he gained prominence by successfully litigating the Smith v. Illinois Bell Telephone Company telephone rate case before the U.S. Supreme Court. The State of Wisconsin appointed him as public service commissioner, and in that capacity he defended public interests against such corporations as American Telephone & Telegraph, and Wisconsin Power and Light.In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked Lilienthal to become one of the first three directors of the TVA. Arthur Morgan, the first chairman, wanted to make deals with private utilities for the distribution of TVA's electrical power. Lilienthal, very skeptical about private utilities through his litigation experiences, wanted TVA to deliver its own power and distribute it through public utility districts.Tired of the ongoing conflicts between the directors, Roosevelt resolved the situation in Lilienthal's favor by firing Arthur Morgan in 1938. When Harcourt Morgan resigned in 1941, he recommended Lilienthal as his successor and Roosevelt concurred.During World War II, Lilienthal oversaw the construction of 12 power generation facilities, which was seen as the largest engineering and construction project in U.S. He once described the TVA as "the largest producer of power for war in the Western Hemisphere."Following the end of the war, President Harry S. Truman asked Undersecretary of State Dean Acheson to prepare a plan for the international control of atomic energy. In early 1946, they announced the Acheson-Lilienthal Report, which recommended that all fissile material be under international control. Their suggestions, later modified by Bernard Baruch, were presented to the United Nations, but Baruch's version was rejected by the Soviet Union because of lenient requirements for atomic weapons reduction for the United States.When the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission was created to take over the work of the Manhattan Project later in 1946, Lilienthal became its first chairman. Along with J. Robert Oppenheimer, he opposed the crash program to develop the Hydrogen Bomb. He recommended instead that the United States concentrate on building its stockpile of less destructive atomic weapons, but he was overruled by Eisenhower who felt it was in the country’s best interest to pursue the crash program.In 1950, Lilienthal left the AEC in protest to Eisenhower’s decision and entered private business. He died of a heart attack on January 14, 1981, in New York City.


Two schools of thought concerning nuclear weapons emerged in the United States immediately after the end of World War II. One school, which had Secretary of War Henry Stimson as its chief proponent, believed that the apparent secrets of the atomic bomb were scientific in nature, and could not be monopolised forever. They further felt that to hold the bomb ostentatiously in reserve, whilst negotiating with the Soviet Union not to develop one, would simply drive Russia into developing their own weapon to restore the balance of power.

The other school included men like Secretary of State James F. Byrnes, who felt that the US monopoly on atomic weapons had been honestly earned, and should not be surrendered. In their view, the Soviet Union understood only power, and could only be met with nuclear weapons.

President Harry S. Truman was divided between the two positions. He was distrustful of the Soviet Union, but still did not want to lead the world down a path to destruction. He continued to solicit views from both sides. Stimson resigned in September 1945, and thereafter the task of promoting his approach fell primarily on Under Secretary of State and later Secretary of State Dean Acheson.

A proposal to pass the responsibility for the control of atomic energy to a United Nations Atomic Energy Commission was endorsed by both the USA and the Soviets in 1945. They had the forum, but the United States had not yet articulated a policy that it wished the new commission to adopt. To resolve the problem, Acheson was appointed to head a committee to set forth United States policy on atomic energy.

The other members of the committee were scientists James Conant and Vannevar Bush, the director of the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which controlled the Manhattan Project, and John McCloy, and General Leslie R. Groves, who had been the military officer in charge of the Manhattan Project. Acheson decided that the committee needed technical advice, so he appointed a board of consultants with David Lilienthal, the well-regarded chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, as chairman. He also appointed J. Robert Oppenheimer, scientific leader of the Manhattan Project, who provided influential advice. Oppenheimer’s contribution lay in an idea to police the production of atomic weapons from monitoring source mines for uranium.

David Ekbladh

My interests are wide and varied but I gravitate toward broad global themes and how they straddle the domestic and international. I see the history of the United States not as separate or exceptional but something firmly connected to the stream of world events. Nevertheless, culture, politics, and society within the United States interact with and refract the global. This is reflected in my research. My first book, The Great American Mission: Modernization and the Construction of an American World Order, (Princeton University Press, 2010) looks at the place of development ideas in American foreign relations during the twentieth century. Modernization was defined in the Depression as liberals sought proof that they could master the forces of modernity. Compelling models emerging from the New Deal were trussed for worldwide use. These approaches, newly labeled "modernization," became a consensus view internationally. At home modernization became an American mission, an imperative appealing to constituencies across society. Strategically, it found a central role U.S.-led "nation building" programs in critical parts of the "Third World." In the 1960s and 1970s, modernization was brought to crisis by its intimate connection to the war in Vietnam, growing criticism of the Western modernity that was assumed to be its goal, and an environmental critique that highlighted ecological and human costs. This discredited modernization in many quarters. Nevertheless, modernization's influence continues to echo in institutions and approaches that remain in the skeletal structure of the international community today.

My current book project, Look at the World: The Rise of an American Globalism in the 1930s reflects a growing interest in the interwar crisis. It focuses on a period where political upheaval facilitated the rise of "totalitarian" states. These were believed to have changed the nature of international life. Americans came to the conclusion that to remain secure at home they had to actively promote policies they believed would assure global stability. This demanded the assumption of vast—and potentially limitless—commitments that defined a new type of American globalism.

However, much of the thinking legitimating this view emerged from a transnational discourse contending with a collapsing world order. Because of dramatic changes in mass media and advocacy, these broader views quickly diffused down from international activists and institutions to very local and immediate segments of American society. They led a profound revision of American perceptions, politics, and institutions that remain foundations for our present day understanding of the U.S. role in the world.

Professional experiences have given me insight into the array of actors and ideas that move world affairs. For several years I worked with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, a philanthropic foundation, on international affairs and conflict prevention issues. I spent some time with an UN-affiliated educational program in New York and Costa Rica. Other opportunities led me to Japan where I contributed to educational programs of the Tokyo Foundation.

High Tech History

Henry W. Hoagland, Jr. (1912-1995) was many things in his life: a businessman, a congressional and presidential advance man, and philanthropist. But he really laid the groundwork for much of his future success through his association with Gen. Georges F. Doriot, Harry’s professor at the Harvard School of Business Administration.

Georges Doriot is often referred to as “The Father of Venture Capital” who, through his Manufacturing course at Harvard Business School, had mentored many young businessmen who would eventually become the heads of American corporations. One of his most successful students was Harry Hoagland.

After obtaining his MBA at Harvard, Harry completed his law degree at Stanford University and, in December of 1941, came to Washington to assist Gen. Doriot at the Military Planning Division of the Quartermaster General’s office, which was charged with, among other duties, outfitting American G.I.s. After spending the bulk of World War II with Gen. Doriot, Harry went to work for various governmental committees, including the newly formed Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, which was charged with congressional oversight over the Atomic Energy Commission. This was important, because with the recent detonation of atomic weapons in the war with Japan, there was much fear in America concerning the dangers of possible misuse of this technology.

As could be expected, there was an urgent need for men of impeccable character and loyalty who were needed to work for the committee and other activities related to it. Harry relied on the good advice, counsel and recommendations of Gen. Doriot, who in turn, expressed great pride in the accomplishments of his former aide.

As a teacher, Doriot wished to know more about atomic technology, and didn’t hesitate asking Harry questions about it. From a letter Doriot wrote Hoagland in December of 1947:

“As a teacher, there is one thing that rather interests me and bewilders me. From time to time, Mr Lilienthal (recently confirmed head of the AEC), then more recently the attorney general, make [sic] speeches explaining that youth is at the crossroad that atomic energy is an important subject about which the public should be fully informed. Youth should make up its mind what it wants to do with it.

“I talked those things over with my students and as a teacher, I am not at all able to tell youth what to do. Do you understand what it is that a teacher like myself should do? Have you any ideas as to what I should tell them to study in order to help them make up their minds about it? The students are bewildered. I am bewildered. Apparently there is something that both my students and I should be doing, but we do not know quite what it is or how we should go about it. But, I realize the importance of the problem. Last summer I had a group of men outline a study of the possible effects and relationships between nuclear developments and industry. Please advise me. I feel I am missing something. I invited Mr. Lilienthal to come and address my class, but he could not come. Obviously I need help from you. So please tell me how to be a better teacher.”

Harry of course helped Gen. Doriot as the professor had helped his former student, and their bond was further strengthened – laying the groundwork for Harry’s arrival shortly thereafter in Boston to serve as an officer of American Research and Development.

David Lilienthal - History

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" . . . the language of a man who leaves his mark of love of family and of country

for all to see, to admire, and to emulate"

David Eli Lilienthal , 1899 – 1981. Co-Director, 1933 �, and Chairman, 1941�, Tennessee Valley Authority Chairman, United States Atomic Energy Commission, 1946�. Autograph letter signed, David E. Lilienthal, one page, 7½" x 7½", on personal stationery, [no place], September 19, 1973.

This is a scarce, if not rare, handwritten letter by Lilienthal , a central figure in the Great Depression and in the Cold War that dominated the world after World War II. Our research has not found another letter in his hand in auction results.

Here Lilienthal sends a glowing, almost poetic response to a letter from Robert F. Allen, Jr. “Your letter,” he writes, "spoke the language of a man who leaves his mark of love of family and of country for all to see, to admire, and to emulate. I send my thanks for the inspiration of your words.”

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Lilienthal, then a leading member of the Wisconsin Public Service Commission, as one of the three original directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority. Under Lilienthal, who later became its first chairman in 1941, the TVA sought to aid the Depression-ravaged Tennessee Valley through flood control, electricity generation, fertilizer manufacture, and economic development. The centerpiece of its activities was a series of public hydroelectric dams to provide power to rural homes.

In 1946, Under Secretary of State Dean Acheson asked Lilienthal to chair a five-member committee to advise President Harry S. Truman and Secretary of State James F. Byrnes on the American position on control of nuclear weapons. The result was a controversial 60-page report, the Report on the International Control of Atomic Energy, also known as the Acheson-Lilienthal Report. It proposed that control of fissile material be ceded to an international agency, which would then release controlled amounts to individual nations for peaceful uses of atomic energy. In addition —an extremely controversial idea—it proposed that the United States abandon its monopoly on nuclear weapons, revealing its nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union, in exchange for mutual agreement not to develop additional atomic bombs. The proposal failed at the United Nations: Neither Acheson nor Lilienthal accepted various additional provisions, and the Soviet Union rejected American insistence on controlling the atomic bomb until the United States was satisfied with international control.

In the long run, the United States created the civilian Atomic Energy Commission. Truman appointed Lilienthal as its first chair. The appointment was controversial, opposed by the conservative wing of the Republican Party in the Senate, led by Ohio Senator Robert Taft, which charged that Lilienthal, a New Deal liberal, was soft on Communism. Truman drew the line in the sand, and, with the support of Democrats and moderate Republicans led by Michiganʼs Arthur H. Vandenberg, Lilienthal was confirmed.

Allen, to whom Lilienthal wrote this letter, evidently was an autograph collector. Several letters responding to Allen by other prominent persons, including President Jimmy Carter and Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., to whom Allen sent birthday greetings, appear in Internet searches and autograph sales.

This is a nice letter. Lilienthal has written and signed it in black felt-tipped pen. The letter has slight wrinkling at the right, which affects parts of four words and the end of Lilienthalʼs large, 3⅜" signature. There is also a paper clip impression at the upper left, a small stain in the lower right corner, and one horizontal fold affecting part of one line but not the signature. The letter is in fine condition.


The Tennessee Valley Authority was initially founded as an agency to provide general economic development to the region through power generation, flood control, navigation assistance, fertilizer manufacturing, and agricultural development. Since the Depression years, it has developed primarily into a power utility. Despite its shares being owned by the federal government, TVA operates like a private corporation, and receives no taxpayer funding. [6] The TVA Act authorizes the company to use eminent domain. [7]

TVA provides electricity to approximately ten million people through a diverse portfolio that includes nuclear, coal-fired, natural gas-fired, hydroelectric, and renewable generation. TVA sells its power to 154 local power utilities, 5 direct industrial and institutional customers, and 12 area utilities. [8] In addition to power generation, TVA provides flood control with its 29 hydroelectric dams. Resulting lakes and other areas also allow for recreational activities. The TVA also provides navigation and land management along rivers within its region of operation. [6] TVA also assists governments and private companies on economic development projects. [6]

TVA has a nine-member board of directors, each nominated by the President of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate. The part-time members serve five-year terms and receive an annual stipend of $45,000 ($50,000 for the chairman). The board members choose the chief executive officer (CEO). [9] TVA's headquarters are located in downtown Knoxville, with large administrative offices in Chattanooga (training/development supplier relations power generation and transmission) and Nashville (economic development) in Tennessee and Muscle Shoals, Alabama.

The Tennessee Valley Authority Police are the primary law enforcement agency for the company. Initially part of the TVA, in 1994 the TVA Police was authorized as a federal law enforcement agency.

Background Edit

During the 1920s and the 1930s Great Depression years, Americans began to support the idea of public ownership of utilities, particularly hydroelectric power facilities. The concept of government-owned generation facilities selling to publicly owned distribution utilities was controversial and remains so today. [10] [ page needed ] Many believed privately owned power companies were charging too much for power, did not employ fair operating practices, and were subject to abuse by their owners (utility holding companies), at the expense of consumers. [ citation needed ]

During his presidential campaign, Franklin D. Roosevelt said that private utilities had "selfish purposes" and said, "Never shall the federal government part with its sovereignty or with its control of its power resources while I'm president of the United States." The private sector practice of forming utility holding companies had resulted in their controlling 94 percent of generation by 1921, and they were essentially unregulated. In an effort to change this, Congress and Roosevelt enacted the Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935 (PUHCA). [ citation needed ]

After Roosevelt was elected, the federal government bought many private utility companies in the Tennessee Valley as part of the Tennessee Valley Authority project. Others shut down, unable to compete with the TVA. The government passed regulations to prevent competition with TVA. [ citation needed ]

In 1920 Senator George Norris (R-Nebraska) blocked a proposal from industrialist Henry Ford to build a private dam and utility to modernize the valley. Norris deeply distrusted privately owned utility companies, which controlled 94% of power generation in 1921. He gained passage of the Muscle Shoals Bill, to build a federal dam in the valley, but it was vetoed as socialistic by President Herbert Hoover in 1931. The idea behind the Muscle Shoals project in 1933 became a core part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Tennessee Valley Authority. [11]

Even by Depression standards, in 1933 the Tennessee Valley was in dire economic straits. Thirty percent of the population was affected by malaria. The average income in the rural areas was $639 per year (equivalent to $10,256 in 2021 [12] ), with some families surviving on as little as $100 per year (equivalent to $1,605 in 2019 [12] ). Much of the land had been exhausted by poor farming practices, and the soil was eroded and depleted. Crop yields had fallen, reducing farm incomes. The best timber had been cut, and 10% of forests were lost to fires each year. [10] [ page needed ]

Early history Edit

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act (ch. 32, Pub.L. 73–17, 48 Stat. 58, enacted May 18, 1933 , codified as amended at 16 U.S.C. § 831, et seq.), creating the TVA. TVA was designed to modernize the region, using experts and electricity to combat human and economic problems. [13] TVA developed fertilizers, and taught farmers ways to improve crop yields. In addition, it helped replant forests, control forest fires, and improve habitat for fish and wildlife. The most dramatic change in Valley life came from TVA-generated electricity from the dams it constructed on area rivers. With electricity, farms could be provided with lights and modern home appliances, making the lives of residents easier and farms more productive. The available electricity attracted new industries to the region, providing desperately needed jobs. [3]

The development of the dams provided numerous construction jobs. At the same time, however, they required the displacement of more than 15,000 families. This created anti-TVA sentiment in some rural communities. In related projects, three towns had to be relocated, as were cemeteries. The TVA relocated and reinterred remains at new locations, together with replacing tombstones. [14]

Many local landowners were suspicious of government agencies, but TVA successfully introduced new agricultural methods into traditional farming communities by blending in and finding local champions. Tennessee farmers would often reject advice from TVA officials, so the officials had to find leaders in the communities and convince them that crop rotation and the judicious application of fertilizers could restore soil fertility. Once they had convinced the leaders, the rest followed. [15] [ page needed ]

At its inception, TVA was based in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, but gradually moved its headquarters to Knoxville, Tennessee, where it is still based. [16] At one point, TVA's headquarters were housed in the Old Federal Customs House at the corner of Clinch Avenue and Market Street. The building is now operated as a museum and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. [17] TVA was one of the first federal hydropower agencies. Today most of the nation's major hydropower systems are federally managed. But other attempts to create similar regional corporate agencies have failed, and the proposed Columbia Valley Authority for the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest did not gain approval. [18]

The Authority hired many of the area's unemployed for a variety of jobs: they conducted conservation, economic development, and social programs. For instance, a library service was instituted for this area. The professional staff at headquarters were generally composed of experts from outside the region. By 1934, TVA employed more than 9,000 people. [19]

The workers were classified by the usual racial and gender lines of the region, which limited opportunities for minorities and women. TVA hired a few African Americans, generally restricted for janitorial or other low-level positions. TVA recognized labor unions its skilled and semi-skilled blue collar employees were unionized, a breakthrough in an area known for corporations hostile to miners' and textile workers' unions. Women were excluded from construction work. TVA's cheap electricity attracted textile mills to the area, and they hired mostly women as workers. [20]

During World War II, the U.S. needed greater aluminum supplies to build airplanes. Aluminum plants required large amounts of electricity. To provide the power, TVA engaged in one of the largest hydropower construction programs ever undertaken in the U.S. By early 1942, when the effort reached its peak, 12 hydroelectric plants and one steam plant were under construction at the same time, and design and construction employment reached a total of 28,000. In its first eleven years, TVA constructed a total of 16 hydroelectric dams. [19]

The largest project of this period was the Fontana Dam. After negotiations led by Vice-President Harry Truman, TVA purchased the land from Nantahala Power and Light, a wholly owned subsidiary of Alcoa, and built Fontana Dam. Also in 1942, TVA's first coal-fired plant, the 267-megawatt Watts Bar Steam Plant, began operation. [21]

The government originally intended the electricity generated from Fontana to be used by Alcoa factories. [ citation needed ] By the time the dam generated power in early 1945, the electricity was directed to another purpose in addition to aluminum manufacturing. TVA also provided much of the electricity needed for uranium enrichment at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, as required for the Manhattan Project and the making of the atomic bomb. [ citation needed ]

Increasing power demand Edit

By the end of World War II, TVA had completed a 650 miles (1,050 km) navigation channel the length of the Tennessee River and had become the nation's largest electricity supplier. Even so, the demand for electricity was outstripping TVA's capacity to produce power from hydroelectric dams, and so TVA began to construct coal-fired plants. Political interference kept TVA from securing additional federal appropriations to do so, so it sought the authority to issue bonds. [22] Several of TVA's coal-fired plants, including Johnsonville, Widows Creek, Shawnee, Kingston, Gallatin, and John Sevier, began operations in the 1950s. [23] In 1955 coal surpassed hydroelectricity as TVA's top generating source. [24] On August 6, 1959 President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed into law an amendment to the TVA act, making the agency self-financing. [25] During the 1960s, TVA's generating capacity nearly quadrupled. [26]

The 1960s were years of further unprecedented economic growth in the Tennessee Valley. Capacity growth during this time slowed, but ultimately increased 56% between 1960 and 1970. [26] To handle a project future increase in electrical consumption, TVA began constructing 500 kilovolt (kV) transmission lines, the first of which was placed into service on May 15, 1965. [26] Electric rates were among the nation's lowest during this time and stayed low as TVA brought larger, more efficient generating units into service. Plants completed during this time included Paradise, Bull Run, and Nickajack Dam. [26] Expecting the Valley's electric power needs to continue to grow, TVA began building nuclear reactors in 1966 as a new source of cheap power. [27] During the 1960s and 1970s, TVA was engaged in what was up to that time its most controversial project – the Tellico Dam Project. [28] The project was initially conceived in the 1940s but not completed until 1979. [29]

1970s and 1980s Edit

Significant changes occurred in the economy of the Tennessee Valley and the nation, prompted by an international oil embargo in 1973 and accelerating fuel costs later in the decade. The average cost of electricity in the Tennessee Valley increased fivefold from the early 1970s to the early 1980s.

TVA's first nuclear reactor, Browns Ferry Unit 1, began commercial operation on August 1, 1974. [30] In the early 1970s, TVA set out to construct a total of 17 nuclear reactors, due to a projection of further rapid increase in power demand. [31] However, in the 1980s ten of these reactors were cancelled. On August 6, 1981 the Tennessee Valley Authority Board voted to defer the Phipps Bend plant, as well as to slow down construction on all other projects. [32] The Hartsville and Yellow Creek plants were cancelled in 1984 and Bellefonte in 1988. [31]

Construction of the Tellico Dam became controversial for environmental reasons, as laws had changed since early development in the valley. Scientists and other researchers had become more aware of the massive environmental effects of the dams and new lakes, and worried about preserving habitats and species. The Tellico Dam project was initially delayed because of concern over the snail darter, a threatened species. A lawsuit was filed under the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of protecting the snail darter in Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill in 1978. [33]

Marvin T. Runyon became chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority in January 1988. During his tenure he claimed to reduce management layers, cut overhead costs by more than 30%, and achieved cumulative savings and efficiency improvements of $1.8 billion. He also claimed to have revitalized the nuclear program and instituted a rate freeze that continued for ten years. [34]

Recent history Edit

As the electric-utility industry moved toward restructuring and deregulation, TVA began preparing for competition. It cut operating costs by nearly $950 million a year, reduced its workforce by more than half, increased the generating capacity of its plants, and developed a plan to meet the energy needs of the Tennessee Valley through the year 2020. [ citation needed ]

In 1996, Watts Bar Unit 1 began operation. This was the last commercial nuclear reactor in the United States to begin operation in the 20th century. [ citation needed ]

David E. Lilienthal

David E. Lilienthal was the first Chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Prior to becoming the Chairman of the AEC, he served as the leader of a consultancy group for the State Department that was responsible for developing the Acheson-Lilienthal Report.

Chosen by Undersecretary of the U.S. Department of State Dean Acheson, Lilienthal led a special consultancy committee for developing a strategy for international control of atomic weapons. The other members of the committee were Chester Barnard, a telephone executive, Harry A. Winne, a Manhattan Project veteran and vice president of General Electric, J. Robert Oppenheimer, the "father of the atomic bomb," and Dr. Charles Thomas, vice president of Monsanto and plutonium chemist (Neuse, p. 168-169).

Together, this group developed the Acheson-Lilienthal Report. Bernard Baruch, the United States representative to the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission (UNAEC), used the Acheson-Lilienthal Report to write his official proposal for the UNAEC. After the Soviet Union failed to accept the terms of Baruch's proposal and the United States refused to compromise, discussions of positive international cooperation and arms control stalled in the UNAEC (Neuse, p. 175).

On October 28, 1946, Lilienthal was appointed as Chairman of the AEC by President Harry Truman. He did not take office, however, until January 1, 1947. According to The New York Times, his nomination was met with controversy from a variety of government officials, such as Senator Kenneth McKellar (D-TN), who insinuated that Lilienthal's eastern European background meant Lilienthal “must be tainted with Communism.”

As Chairman of the AEC, Lilienthal attempted to bring atomic science into open debate and provide the public with access. To do achieve this openness, Lilienthal tried to minimize the need for excessive secrecy, which he thought could be destructive by forcing decisions to be made based on 'caution, not justice' (Neuse, p. 230).

He also actively worked to ensure the American atomic bomb program remained in civilian hands rather than under the military's control. Historian Alex Wellerstein argues that Lilienthal's actions were rooted in his belief that "the military was more or less crazy-eager to use atomic bombs." Throughout his career, Lilienthal and General Leslie R. Groves, the former Director of the Manhattan Project, butted heads. Groves told journalist Stephane Groueff that he felt Lilienthal "hated me like poison."

Although Lilienthal's personal convictions lay in international control of the atomic bomb, he realized the optimism surrounding world peace was fading by late 1947 and 1948 (Neuse, p. 199). During his time at the AEC, Lilienthal helped expand the stockpile of atomic bombs in the United States and encourage the use of nuclear fission in private industry.

Lilienthal opposed the crash hydrogen bomb development program . He reasoned that should the project fail, already scarce resources would be lost and the United States could fall behind in the production of atomic bombs. He retired from the AEC on February 15, 1950.

Early Years

David Eli Lilienthal was born in Morton, Illinois on July 8, 1899. Immigrating to the United States from Europe, his mother and father were originally from Slovakia and Hungary, respectively.

Lilienthal grew up in Indiana. In 1920, he graduated Phi Beta Kappa from DePauw University, where he also played varsity football for two years, boxed, and served as student body president.

Following DePauw University, Lilienthal attended Harvard Law School. He graduated with his J.D. in 1923. The same year, Lilienthal married Helen Marian Lamb, a fellow student from DePauw.

After passing the Illinois bar exam, he began to work for Donald Richberg's firm in Chicago. At Richberg's firm, he developed into a specialist in utility law. In considering his background in utility law and success as a special attorney for the city in a telephone-rate case, the State appointed Lilienthal to the State Utility Commission in 1931.

From the State Utility Commission, Lilienthal became the head of the Tennessee Valley Authority's (TVA) power program. He was also the main negotiator for the TVA in purchasing Commonwealth and Southern properties.

On September 15, 1941, Lilienthal became the Chairman of the TVA. At the TVA, Lilienthal gained a reputation for challenging private power companies to lower their prices. He helped establish the TVA as a major source of electricity during World War II and the nation's largest producer of electrical power by 1944.

Later Years

Following his retirement at the AEC, Lilienthal traveled around the country giving lectures on his life and work experiences. Later, he entered the private sector and became an industrial consultant at Lazard Freres and Company. The National Academy of Sciences awarded him the Public Service Medal in 1951.

In 1952, he became the president of Minerals Separation, an industrial minerals production company. A year later, Lilienthal joined the Development and Research Corporation and served as the company's chairman and CEO. Harking back to his interests in utility development at the TVA, Lilienthal focused on dams, irrigation, flood control, and electrical generation.

Between the 1940s and 1980s, Lilienthal wrote several books. Some of the most well known include TVA: Democracy on the March (1944), This I Do Believe (1948), Big Business, A New Era (1953), and Change, Hope and the Bomb (1963). Lilienthal also kept a series of journals throughout his life. In his seven volumes of journals, Lilienthal detailed his inner thoughts and interpretations of his daily life, career, and global events.

At the age of eighty-one, Lilienthal died in New York City on January 15, 1981.

For more information about David E. Lilienthal, please see the following references:

Self-Made Utility Man

In concert with other lawyers he helped win for the public a famous telephone rate case, Smith v. Illinois Bell Telephone Company, which required a 600-page brief and arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court. In 1931 he established and became the first director of the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation that same year, he organized the Wisconsin Railroad Commission. His name began to be known across the country.

Appropriately enough for the man who’d be responsible for building so many reservoirs in the TVA region, the call to national service came by rowboat. Lilienthal was fishing on a lake in upper Wisconsin when a messenger rowed out to the island where he was staying and told him he had an urgent long-distance call from Arthur Morgan, the new chairman of TVA.

On the phone in his fishing gear, the flabbergasted Lilienthal had the first of many arguments with Morgan. He found the job prospect exciting, he said, but he was on vacation and preferred to meet with Morgan sometime the following week. Informing Lilienthal that President Roosevelt himself had insisted that the two men meet as soon as possible, Morgan carried his point. They got together in Chicago the next day.

With Morgan, Lilienthal was frank about what he saw as his own shortcomings, especially his limited knowledge of engineering and his lack of a personal connection to the South.

But both Morgan and FDR knew that Lilienthal’s grasp of the way public utilities worked was surpassed nowhere in the country. And having met him, Morgan was impressed by his forthrightness—though that quality would come back to haunt the chairman.

The Tennessee Valley Authority: Electricity for All

Editor’s Note: This entry consists of several different articles and reports copied from the New Deal Network http://newdeal.feri.org/tva/tva01.htm. More information is available in the Source note at the end of the entry.

Introduction: TVA was one of the most ambitious projects of the New Deal in its overall conception. Its comprehensive nature encompassed many of FDR’s own interests in conservation, public utility regulation, regional planning, agricultural development, and the social and economic improvement of the “Forgotten Americans.”

TVA encountered many setbacks and failures. It was involved in many controversies. But it brought electricity to thousands of people at an affordable price. It controlled the flood waters of the Tennessee River and improved navigation. It introduced modern agricultural techniques. All of these stories must be told to appreciate the changes TVA brought to the people of the Tennessee Valley.

The Origins of the Tennessee Valley Authority

The TVA story begins at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where the Tennessee River drops 140 feet in thirty miles. This drop in elevation created the rapids or “shoals” that the area is named for, and made it all but impossible for ships to travel further up the Tennessee River. In 1916 the federal government acquired the site and began plans to construct a dam there. The dam was meant to generate electricity that was needed to produce explosives for the war effort, but World War I ended before the facilities could be used. During the 1920s Congress debated over what was to be done with the property. Some members of Congress wanted to sell the dam to private interests. At one time Henry Ford offered to purchase the site and develop a nitrate plant in the area.

Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska led the fight to retain public control over the property. Senator Norris had tried six times to introduce bills for the federal development of the area, which were all defeated by unsympathetic Republican administrations. With the coming of the Depression, Americans looked more favorably to government economic intervention in the public interest. President Roosevelt–who had a personal interest in regional planning, conservation, the utilities question, and planning–backed Norris’ plan to develop the Tennessee River Valley.

On May 18, 1933 FDR signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act (TVA). TVA was to improve navigability on the Tennessee River, provide for flood control, plan reforestation and the improvement of marginal farm lands, assist in industrial and agricultural development, and aid the national defense in the creation of government nitrate and phosphorus manufacturing facilities at Muscle Shoals.

The Tennessee River ran through seven states, through some of the most disadvantaged areas of the South. Perhaps the boldest authority given to TVA can be found in Section 23 of the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, where TVA was given a mandate to improve ” the economic and social well-being of the people living in said river basin.”

The Board of Administrators

A three-member board directed TVA: Arthur Morgan, Harcourt Morgan, and David Lilienthal. Each had very different ideas about the direction TVA could and should take. A battle between the three administrators went on from 1933 until March, 1938, when Arthur Morgan was fired.

Arthur Morgan, the former president of Antioch College, was an advocate of social planning who saw in TVA an opportunity to build a cooperative relationship between government and business. He wanted to keep rates at a comparative level to avoid alienating private industry. Morgan believed the higher purpose of TVA was to eliminate poverty in the Tennessee Valley, and to serve as a model for national regional planning. He had strongly-held anticapitalist, communitarian values, but was often accused of holding paternalistic and authoritarian positions.

Harcourt Morgan, the only Southerner on the board, was an advocate for southern commercial farmers and was suspicious of experiments in government planning.

David Lilienthal was an outspoken advocate of public power, who wanted TVA to compete directly with private power interests.

Harcourt Morgan and Lilienthal eventually formed a coalition on the Board against Arthur Morgan. This division led to public conflict between the board members, and in 1938 Roosevelt dismissed Arthur Morgan.

In 1938 Harcourt Morgan became the new head of the Authority, followed in 1941 by Lilienthal. By 1941 TVA had become the largest producer of electrical power in the United States.

Opposition to TVA

The strongest opposition to TVA came from power companies, who resented the cheaper energy available through TVA and saw it as a threat to private development. They charged that the federal government’s involvement in the power business was unconstitutional. The fight against TVA was led by Wendell Willkie, president of the Commonwealth and Southern Company, a large power utility company.

During the 1930s there were many court cases brought against TVA. The Alabama Power Company brought a suit against TVA that was argued before the Supreme Court. They claimed that in entering into the electric utility business, the government had exceeded its Constitutional powers. In February 1936 the Supreme Court ruled that TVA had the authority to generate power at Wilson Dam, to sell the electricity, and to distribute that electricity. In 1939 the Court upheld the constitutionality of the TVA Act.

In 1935 John D. Battle, Executive Secretary of the National Coal Association, testified before a Congressional Hearing on TVA. Battle spoke for many in the utility business who were concerned about the federal government’s entry into the power business:

Statement of John D. Battle, Executive Secretary of the National Coal Association [excerpts], in Hearings before the Committee on Military Affairs, House of Representatives (74th Cong., 1st Sess., 1935).

[…]It is my desire on behalf of the coal industry to register with the committee our opposition to this bill and to express the hope that this committee will be unwilling to give it a favorable report.

Appearing here today as spokesman of the bituminous coal industry of this Nation, I wish to make it clear that the coal industry is not opposed to the Government constructing dams designed to prevent soil erosion is not opposed to the Government erecting dams to control flood waters neither is it opposed to construction of dams to improve navigation on the rivers of this country. There is just one phase of this program to which we object most seriously, and that is the Federal Government spending the taxpayers’ money for the erection of power plants which, as we feel, are not needed for the very simple reason that generally, throughout the country, there is an abundance of power capacity, and particularly in the Tennessee Valley region there is already an excess of capacity. We are at a loss to understand how the power generated at Government-built plants can be disposed of except to take the place of privately owned power plants now supplying that community – the great majority of which plants use coal in the creation of that power.

A great deal has been said about the social experiment. We approach this subject from the standpoint first of the employment of our people. There is a human element involved. There are about 400,000 men working in the coal mines of this country. It is their only means of livelihood. The program, as put forward by the Government, is calculated, in our opinion, to destroy the jobs of a number of these men. When the jobs are destroyed there is no sale for the coal, the investment in the property decreases or vanishes. Something like 65 percent of each dollar paid for the cost of producing coal goes to the mine worker 20 or 25 percent of the dollar goes to the purchase of material and supplies and there is a considerable portion of that sum that is paid indirectly to the worker employed in those industries supplying the mines.

I wish to call your attention to the fact that we cannot account for those employed by coal mines by the mere number of those directly engaged in mining operations. We have a situation analogous to a soldier in the trenches to keep a man in the coal mines requires several people behind him and when we consider those indirectly employed, this industry is directly responsible for several million peoples’ livelihood. There are those who are not only direct dependents of the workers who are involved, but all of those engaged in the distribution of coal throughout the Nation, as well as those engaged in industries that supply the coal mining companies with the materials, who are also vitally affected.

It is our estimate that for each ton of coal displaced by some form of energy or fuel it means a loss of a day’s work to some person either employed directly or indirectly in the bituminous coal-mining industry.[…]

[…]I repeat, we did not come here to go into very great detail, from a technical standpoint, on this proposition. I merely wanted to bring you an idea, an idea that this great industry feels that it is being shoved off to one side by our own Government. We do not believe the Government has ever realized the serious implication of what it is doing. I speak, as I say, in terms of an industry, not just a section. T.V.A. exemplifies what it has been proposed to do throughout the Nation.

There is no disposition on the part of this industry to the electrification of America. We rather feel that there is a need for an extension of electrical current to the rural regions. But we do not feel that it is the function of the Federal Government to use the taxpayers’ money for the promotion of these projects. We feel that the American business man is far more capable of visualizing the needs for electrical power and far more capable of designing ways and means by which it may be furnished to prospective customers than is the Government itself.

Just as there is a demand for power, I think we may well rely upon private industries to meet that demand. I wish it made clear here that we hold no brief whatever for the private power companies or the utilities of this country. Our interest is in the production and sale of bituminous coal. An enormous quantity of this coal is sold to the private utilities. They are among our very good customers.

When power can be produced by hydro on an absolutely business basis, all factors being taken into consideration, more cheaply than by coal, then we are willing to admit the justice of the competition. That is not the case generally today with Government hydro projects. […]

Letters From the Field By Lorena Hickok

In 1933 Harry Hopkins, Director of the Federal Emergency Relief Organization (FERA), asked journalist Lorena Hickok to travel through the United States and report on the state of the nation. Hickok was in the Tennessee Valley during June, 1934, and sent two reports to Hopkins recording her impression of the local scene and the local reaction to TVA.

Hickok also sent a brief personal note to Mrs. Roosevelt concerning TVA during the same period.

TVA and the Federal Theatre Project

In 1937 the Federal Theatre Project, an agency of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) which had been created to provide work for unemployed actors and theater workers, produced the Living Newspaper Power. The Living Newspapers were dramatic productions about contemporary issues. Power dramatized the history of the electric industry, and Scene Fifteen demonstrates why many people felt the Tennessee Valley Authority was so necessary.

The Living Newspapers were not simply “mouthpieces” for New Deal Programs. Their productions sometimes angered members of the Roosevelt Administration. Ethiopia. a Living Newspaper about the invasion of that country by Italy, was censored by the Administration. But Power clearly supported TVA’s objectives. When Harry Hopkins, directory of the WPA, saw Power he went backstage and congratulated the cast:

“I want to tell you that this is a great show. It’s fast and funny, it makes you laugh and it makes you cry and it makes you think–I don’t know what more anyone can ask of a show. I want this play and plays like it done from one end of the country to the other… Now let’s get one thing clear: you will take a lot of criticism on this play. People will say it’s propaganda. Well, I say what of it? If it’s propaganda to educate the consumer who’s paying for power, it’s about time someone had some propaganda for him. The big power companies have spent millions on propaganda for the utilities. It’s about time that the consumer had a mouthpiece. I say more plays like Power and more power to you.”