Tennessee Valley Authority

Tennessee Valley Authority

At Muscle Shoals, Alabama, on the Tennessee River, a $145,000,000 hydro-electric plant and two munitions factories had been built during the First World War. After the war, Senator George Norris of Nebraska and John Rankin of Mississippi drafted a bill that would enable these facilities to be converted for peacetime purposes. Norris, a progressive Republican, twice persuaded Congress to pass this legislation, but both times it was vetoed by the president, first by Calvin Coolidge, and then by Herbert Hoover. They both argued that as the plant would be government owned, it would be an example of socialist planning. Something that both men were strongly against.

Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed with what Norris was trying to do and believing it would stimulate the economy of one of the poorest regions in the United States, gave it his full support. On 10th April, 1933, Roosevelt asked Congress to set up the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The munitions factory became a chemical plant manufacturing fertilizers and the hydro-electric plant now generated power for parts of seven states (Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi).

The development of the TVA upset many people in the United States. They complained that a government agency should not compete with private utility companies in the production and distribution of electric power. Representatives of these private companies complained bitterly when it became clear that the unit cost of TVA power was lower than the rates they were charging.

The 34 dams under the control of the TVA on the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers not only produced electric power but also played a role in flood control, irrigation and navigation. The TVA also served several other purposes including reforestation, preservation of wildlife, production of fertilizer and improved use of agricultural land.

Norris Dam, provided for under the original TVA act, is about twenty miles to the northwest of Knoxville on the Clinch River, a Tennessee tributary. It holds back the largest amount of flood waters except that which will be impounded by Kentucky Dam. Norris Dam has had a very material effect upon the navigability of the Tennessee River itself and upon the floods of the Tennessee, Ohio, and the Mississippi. It holds back the surplus waters of a number of Tennessee tributaries which otherwise would discharge a huge volume of water into the main river at a time when flood conditions are aggravated.

In 1937 one of the most damaging floods east of the Mississippi that have ever been recorded would have been intensified had it not been for the effect of Norris Dam upon the flow of the Ohio and the Mississippi.

The city of Cairo, located on the Ohio River, between the mouth of the Ohio and the mouth of the Tennessee, often has been damaged greatly by floods. There is no doubt but the city would have been engulfed and possibly destroyed in this particular case had it not been for Norris Dam.

It may seem impossible that Norris Dam, roughly seven hundred miles distant from Cairo by river, should have saved that city from destruction. Yet the waters of the Ohio at Cairo had risen to the danger point and then above, the levees for the city's protection were in danger of being washed out. At the critical hour, eminent engineers, making careful computations, reached the conclusion that the huge volume of flood waters stored back of Norris Dam had saved Cairo and had greatly diminished the floods along the entire Ohio and Mississippi.

I have attempted to sketch briefly PWA's direct contribution to national defense. Because of the leeway that it had under the law to make grants to cover the entire cost of Federal projects, PWA was able to undertake some others that, while useful in peacetime, are just as important for war purposes as are munitions themselves.

I particularly have in mind hydroelectric power developments. Where would we be today with a scarcity of power already making itself felt, and a greater lack facing us during the next few years, if we had not gone in for the most stupendous program of power development in history?

We claim no credit for the conception of Boulder Dam or of the TVA. But we hurried Boulder Dam to completion after we came in in 1933 and finished it two years ahead of schedule. The power now being generated there is indispensable to the war. And while the main credit for the TVA must gratefully go to that really fine elder statesman, George W. Norris, the records will show that it was PWA encouragement - encouragement in the form of coin of the realm - that gave it not only the means but the opportunity to expand into the vitally important project that it is.

The Tennessee Vallley Authority - 1933

As American industrial power grew, many people flocked to cities to find employment. Since people in cities live relatively close to one another, it is possible for electrical companies to supply power to millions of urban dwellers at a low cost. However, in rural areas, power companies must spend enormous financial resources on connecting power lines over vast distances. Farmer's usually live significant distances from one another.

In the states effected by the Tennessee River and its tributaries (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee) millions of people in the 1930's still did not have electricity and modern appliances. Many of these people lived in poverty and their children lacked the educational opportunities that were available to city dwellers.

The Roosevelt administration embarked on a construction project that rivaled even the Panama Canal project. A decision was made to build dams and lakes throughout the Tennessee Valley. Lakes would form as a result of the dams and hydraulic power plants would generate electricity at a low price for the millions of inhabitants in the valley.

The project employed thousands of people and greatly improved the living standards of millions. Even today, the TVA is one of the biggest public power plants in the world. Some of the accomplishments of the TVA are flood control, improved shipping, recreation, and erosion control. The project was an enormous success and proved that well designed public projects can be beneficial to our society.

Relocating Homes and Families

When approval of Pickwick Landing Dam was announced in February of 1934, the Tuscumbia Times proclaimed, “President Roosevelt gladdened the heart of every man.” And it is true that most local residents, eager for good-paying jobs, celebrated the coming construction of both dam and reservoir. However, their enthusiasm was somewhat tempered by another, less appealing consequence of the construction effort—the loss and relocation of hundreds of homes, farms and families.

The vast reservoir created by the Pickwick Landing Dam affected sections of Hardin County, Tennessee Tishomingo County, Mississippi and Colbert and Lauderdale counties in Alabama. Prior to construction, TVA surveyed and mapped approximately 100,000 acres of land. The agency then acquired more than 63,700 acres, clearing about 12,590 acres of this land of trees, buildings and fences.

TVA studied the effects of the dam and reservoir on the four affected counties and concluded that the building of Pickwick Landing Dam would result in the partial flooding of two towns, Waterloo and Riverton, both in Alabama. Eventually 506 families were relocated and cemeteries, highways, bridges and utility lines were either moved or protected. The price of progress was the dissolution of home and community.

While these families were forced to move, the relocation was no southern diaspora. It appears most families stayed close to their roots. Many of these families found it difficult to solve their own relocation problems, precisely because they preferred to remain in the immediate area, where opportunities were scarce. The communities of Waterloo and Riverton were, prior to the construction of Pickwick Landing Dam, dependent on agricultural income derived from lands that would be included in the reservoir area. Riverton was partially supported by employment on the Colbert Shoals Canal Lock. Waterloo derived some support from the lumber business, but it was estimated that all marketable timber would be cut within two or three years.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) (1933)

The TVA was created on May 18, 1933 by the Tennessee Valley Authority Act. It was established as an independent agency of the federal government to further the economic development of an impoverished, mountainous region covering most of Tennessee and parts of six surrounding states.

The TVA was one of several large river basin development projects launched during the 1930s, like those on the Columbia, Missouri and Colorado Rivers. It built dams up and down the river system for flood control and power generation, including the Norris, Wheeler, Pickwick Landing, Guntersville, Hiawassee, Chickamauga, Watts Bar, Kentucky, Cherokee, Fort Loudon, Ocoee #3, Chatuge, Nottely, Appalachia, Douglas, and Fontana dams [1]. The TVA engaged in many other activities, as well, such as malaria prevention, reforestation, forest fire suppression, erosion control, fertilizer development, agricultural education, advice to farmers and wildlife habitat protection [2]. CCC workers from nearly 200 camps in the region assisted TVA on many of these projects [3].

A key purpose of TVA was to provide electricity to rural areas underserved, or even ignored, by private power companies. It grew out of a long struggle over the hydroelectric potential at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and dovetailed with New Deal efforts to regulate private monopolies and bring electricity to the whole country [4]. It was not long before the TVA had an impact: “Across the Southeast, rates fell so sharply that residents and businesses started thinking up new ways to use electricity – a situation that had been unimaginable only a couple of years earlier, when electrical power was viewed as a luxury to be used sparingly….Ownership of electrical appliances tripled overall…By 1935 power rates were 30 percent below the national average across the region…” [5].

The TVA played a critical role during World War II, its huge electricity supply used to produce raw materials for munitions, fertilizer for food production, and aluminum for aircraft. The TVA also provided the electricity and the secret site for the development of the atomic bomb at Oak Ridge, Tennessee [6]. Other major river basin projects gave similar boosts to the war effort and growth in the Southwest and the Pacific Northwest, but TVA was the only one with regional planning authority. After the war, TVA and its director, David Lilienthal, were heralded around the world as a model for government-led regional development.

Today, TVA provides power to over 9 million people in 7 states from its 29 dams, 11 coal-fired power plants and 3 nuclear facilities [7]. While it has had to adapt to new economic, political and environmental conditions, it remains popular. When President Obama suggested selling TVA, Republicans knocked the proposal down as “a very bad idea” that “could lead to higher electricity rates” [8]. It is the only public works agency entirely created by the New Deal that is still in operation, though now chartered as a public corporation.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

Definition and Summary of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Summary and Definition: The Tennessee Valley Authority The purpose of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was to enable the Federal government to develop and distribute cheap hydroelectric power (electricity) into rural areas that were not served by private utilities. The aims of the TVA were to modernize the region's infrastructure by dam building projects to improve the economic and social lives of rural people. There were many other benefits such as providing thousands of jobs during the Great Depression, providing irrigation, controlling floods and forest fires, the development of new agricultural methods, malaria prevention, improved navigation and conserving forestlands and wildlife.

Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Franklin D Roosevelt (FDR) was the 32nd American President who served in office from March 4, 1933 to April 12 , 1945. One of the important events during his presidency was the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA). The law was passed as part of FDR's New Deal Programs that encompassed his strategies of Relief, Recovery and Reform to combat the problems and effects of the Great Depression.

Tennessee Valley Authority Map

Tennessee Valley Authority Facts: Fast Fact Sheet
Fast, fun facts and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) about the Tennessee Valley Authority.

What was the Purpose of the Tennessee Valley Authority? The purpose of the TVA to address a wide range of economic, environmental and technological issues, including the management of natural resources and the delivery of low-cost electricity

What were the Benefits of the Tennessee Valley Authority? The benefits of the TVA were to rejuvenate the region, controlling floods and conserving forestlands. The dam building projects provided thousands of jobs for unemployed men and a cheap source of electricity which in turn boosted electricity related industries

Tennessee Valley Authority Facts for kids
The following fact sheet contains interesting facts and information on Tennessee Valley Authority for kids.

Facts about the Tennessee Valley Authority for kids

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 1: The TVA was created by Congress in 1933 as a corporation of the U.S. government and the nation's largest public power provider.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 2: On May 18, 1933, Congress passed the TVA Act as one of the measures taken during FDR's first one hundred days in office to combat the effects of the Great Depression.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 3: The TVA Act tasked the new government agency to tackle important problems in the seven state region drained by the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 4: The seven states included Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. In the 1930's only 10% of rural dwellers had electricity

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 5: The TVA developed a massive project to build 20 dams in the region designed to control floods and conserve forestlands by reforesting millions of acres of land.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 6: Many of the people who lived in the Tennessee Valley region had no electricity and farmers were suffering because the eroded soil where they grew their crops was poor and worn out. Crop yields had fallen along with farm incomes and the best timber had been cut. Many farmers were barely growing enough food to feed their families.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 7: The dam building and replanting projects would address these problems. The TVA also developed new agricultural methods and fertilizers to help farmers grow more food

Facts about the Tennessee Valley Authority for kids
The following fact sheet continues with facts about Tennessee Valley Authority for kids.

Facts about the Tennessee Valley Authority for kids

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 8: The ambitious and innovative dam building projects provided thousands of jobs for unemployed men during the Great Depression. The new dams would also provide a cheap source of electricity which in turn would boost electricity related businesses and industries

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 9: The government agency not only organized the building of the new dams but also built power plants and fertilizer factories. The TVA strived to improve the habitats for wildlife and fish.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 10: The dam building projects led to the creation of thousands of jobs. Each dam building project employed up to 40,000 workers.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 11: Other responsibilities written in the TVA act included improving travel on the Tennessee River and helping develop the region's business and farming. The agency was able to conserved water power in the pumped-storage plants and generate and sell surplus electricity

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 12: The Norris Dam on the Clinch River was one of the first dams built by the TVA. The dam was named after Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska, the sponsor of the TVA. Senator Norris went on to be the prime supporter of the 1936 Rural Electrification Act, enacted on May 20, 1936, that provided federal loans for the installation of electrical distribution systems to serve isolated rural areas of the United States.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 13: FDR appointed a three-person board of directors to the TVA consisting of Arthur E. Morgan, David E. Lilienthal and Harcourt Morgan to nine-year renewable terms and confirmed by the Senate. The first chairman of the board was Arthur E. Morgan, a nationally known flood control engineer, Harcourt Morgan was an agricultural specialist and David E. Lilienthal was an American businessman and government official

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 14: Between 1933 and 1944 sixteen dams and a steam plant were constructed by the TVA. The dams controlled floods, improved navigation and generated electricity.

Tennessee Valley Authority Fact 15: The TVA was one of the greatest successes of FDR's administration. The facilities of the Tennessee Valley Authority now provide electricity to 8 million homes via 29 hydroelectric dams, 3 nuclear power plants, 4 combustion turbine plants and 11 fossil-fuel plants

Facts about the Tennessee Valley Authority for kids

Tennessee Valley Authority for kids - President Franklin Roosevelt Video
The article on the Tennessee Valley Authority provides detailed facts and a summary of one of the important events during his presidential term in office. The following Franklin Roosevelt video will give you additional important facts and dates about the political events experienced by the 32nd American President whose presidency spanned from March 4, 1933 to April 12, 1945.

Tennessee Valley Authority

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TVA Beyond the 1930s

The Tennessee Valley and the nation experienced the greatest effects of the TVA in the decades following the 1930s. Dam construction was still actively under way in 1940 and did not conclude until 1944. As dams were completed, power generation grew and the navigation and flood control systems began to work as designed. These engineering achievements and the broad-scale developments carried out by the TVA yielded the benefits for the region that President Roosevelt had envisioned. However despite the success of this massive experiment and contrary to Roosevelt's prediction, it was never repeated elsewhere in the country.

TVA developments came just in time to make a significant contribution to the war effort in World War II (1939–1945). Construction was at its peak in 1942 when 28,000 workers were busy on 12 hydroelectric projects and a steam plant. TVA power was critical to wartime industries, particularly aluminum plants essential to the production of airplanes and bombs. By war's end the TVA had completed the 650-mile navigation channel and was the largest electricity supplier in the United States. Demand for electricity grew faster than the TVA's hydroelectric power production. By the 1960s the TVA was generating power from coal-fired plants and began construction on nuclear power plants. As for other utilities around the country, the TVA encountered rising construction costs and political resistance to nuclear power plants. Several plants were canceled before the TVA finally abandoned nuclear plant construction entirely in the 1990s. Beginning in the 1970s and continuing into the 1990s electricity costs rose dramatically. These higher costs severely challenged the TVA to improve efficiency and productivity so it could remain competitive in the industry. As it moved into the twenty-first century, the TVA continued to justify its role in the electric power industry as a yardstick by which private companies could be measured. What many considered an unfair advantage for the TVA was removed in 1959 when Congress made the TVA's power system depend entirely on its own revenues. It became completely independent of government funding or financing. Of course the initial massive investment that funded the construction of hydroelectric facilities in the first place was public money, direct comparisons between the TVA and private systems may not be entirely fair.

Future TVAs

The perception of unfair dealings by the government with private industry in the creation of the TVA led to a kind of backlash against further developments of this kind. In the 1940 presidential election campaign, Republican candidate Willkie, a veteran of the battle against the TVA, severely criticized the Roosevelt administration for sinking so much public money into a single project and in the process allegedly damaging the free enterprise system. The fact that business investment declined in the latter half of the 1930s provided support for Willkie's arguments. These arguments had their effect on public opinion even though Roosevelt won the 1940 election. Even earlier in 1937 when Senator Norris introduced legislation to create TVA-like authorities across the country, he faced opposition not only from private interests but even from within the Roosevelt administration. The Agriculture and War departments felt such authorities would duplicate what the departments already were doing. Political wrangling within the government and opposition from private companies and their supporters effectively prevented the creation of any more public organizations like the TVA.

In fact, analysis of the historical forces that led to the TVA suggests that it was only the convergence of certain unique circumstances that made it possible in the first place. World War I led to Wilson Dam. Abuses by the private power companies lowered their popularity dramatically by the early 1930s, even though later reforms within the industry rectified many of the errors that they had committed. The Depression was a national crisis that made new approaches popular. The persistently depressed economy of the Tennessee Valley made it a popular cause for government assistance. Once the TVA was established, the power needs of World War II made the TVA a highly valued national asset. These circumstances were not repeated elsewhere in the country or at any other time in American history. They also did not change the traditional American ambivalence regarding government competition or interference with private enterprise.

Although the country did not repeat the TVA experiment elsewhere, the TVA did have profound impacts in the Tennessee Valley and elsewhere. As the fulfillment of a unified plan for development of an entire river basin, it probably has no equal in the world. The combination of a massive financial investment, generation of huge amounts of affordable electrical power, and establishment of an uninterrupted navigation channel all the way to Knoxville stimulated the economy and dramatically raised standards of living in the Tennessee Valley and to a large extent the entire American South. Ironically this huge government program, criticized by many as "socialistic," was a fantastic success in promoting private economic activity. Despite the vision of Roosevelt and Arthur Morgan, however, the TVA never achieved similar success as a regional planning agency in the promotion of social, educational, and health programs.

We will be the preferred and continuing source of services that enhance the competitive position of consumer-owned utilities. We will be the leading force in shaping public policy related to the supply of electricity to consumers in the Tennessee Valley.

Our mission is twofold: to serve as an effective advocate for our members’ interests with the public, in the political process, and with the TVA and to be a successful independent provider of competitive business services. As a voluntary service organization, we provide our members with the advantages of larger utility operations without relinquishing the local ownership and control that is essential to our independent distribution systems. The backbone of our association is its committee structure. Key volunteer committees provide the vital working link between the association staff and members.

Hard Times for the TVA ’ s Nuclear Program in the mid-1980s

By the early 1980s, Tennessee Valley electric rates were five times higher than a decade earlier. As was the case with other U.S. utilities, several nuclear plant construction projects were terminated due to lower energy demand and higher construction costs, with billions already spent on these sites. The TVA ’ s management of its nuclear power program came under serious attack in the mid-1980s. The agency had received 12 Nuclear Regulatory Commission fines since 1980, and was under Congressional investigation for alleged mismanagement and cover-ups. The TVA had to shut down its five functioning reactors in 1985, due to tough new federal nuclear regulations. The TVA ’ s plans to recover from these closings were in disarray, and responsibility for the nuclear power program had been shared across multiple divisions, making it difficult to proceed with an integrated plan. Eventually, the TVA obtained new consultants and staff with expertise in nuclear power. During 1988, almost one-third of the TVA ’ s 33,000 employee workforce was laid off and management salaries were frozen. By 1989, two nuclear reactors were operational. The massive borrowing practices of the TVA, keeping the agency on the verge of bankruptcy, led to $20 billion of nuclear debt. Congress placed a debt ceiling of $30 billion on the TVA.

The history of the Kentucky Lake area offers unique perspective on how our region has changed over the last several decades.

For instance, did you know that entire towns, one with over 2500 residents, had to be completely relocated when the lakes were built? And did you know that thousands of people were relocated when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) purchased over 170,000 acres of land to form a national recreation area?

Something of this magnitude doesn't seem possible. But it happened, beginning in 1938 and lasting over the next 30 years.

Kentucky Lake

The creation of today's Kentucky Lake began way back in the 1920s when frustrations grew with frequent flooding on the Tennessee River causing problems for residents in the Tennessee Valley. Additionally, most rural residents in this region outside of towns didn't have electricity.

Efforts began creating a hydroelectric dam somewhere along the Tennessee River in western Kentucky to help solve these problems. In the late 1920s, most locals wanted the dam at Aurora, and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) considered this area to be a potential site until around 1937-38. The present-day site at Gilbertsville was chosen.

TVA began constructing Kentucky Dam in 1938 and completed it in 1944. The reservoir behind the dam became known as Kentucky Lake, stretching 184 miles and covering 160,000 acres. Today, the dam generates electricity for thousands of households in the region.

Lake Barkley

A series of locks and dams built in the early 20th century along the Cumberland River was generally meant for navigation but not flood control. Some of the worst flooding in the country occurred along the river area frequently, including the Flood of 1937 which devastated communities along the river.

After the creation of Kentucky Dam in 1944, residents along the nearby Cumberland River began calling for a similar dam. They got their wish in the late 1950s, when the US Army Corps of Engineers announced the creation of a new dam just two miles east of Kentucky Dam.

In 1964, Lake Barkley was created when the gates at Barkley Dam were closed. Many communities had to be completely relocated, including the towns of Kuttawa and Eddyville. Railroads, major US highways, homes, cemeteries - all had to be moved to make way for the new lake. Today's City of Eddyville along US 62 is totally new, having moved to it's location in the early 1960s. Most of the old town is underwater and gone.

Land Between The Lakes

During the creation of Lake Barkley, TVA realized Lake Barkley, Kentucky Lake, and the connecting canal between the two dams would create a peninsula. Known to the locals as "Between The Rivers", this stretch of land was very rural, somewhat isolated and impoverished.

TVA began an effort to create a vast recreation area known as "Land Between The Lakes" (LBL) and began purchasing property from landowners in the area.

The move by TVA was quite controversial, with several families not wanting to sell their property. However, eminent domain prevailed and the last families were relocated in the late 1960s.

Evidence of the former homesites, churches, businesses and roads are everywhere in LBL. There are dozens of cemeteries that remain, which are maintained by families and volunteer groups.

Today, Land Between The Lakes is a 170,000 acre National Recreation Area with several attractions, campgrounds and historical places of interest. There are no businesses or residents in Land Between The Lakes, so it is a great place to really get away from it all and experience nature.

Historical Sites

Our sister site, Four Rivers Explorer, features more historical information for the Kentucky Lakes Area. The site also showcases some of the "lost" historic places in Land Between The Lakes.

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)

On May 18, 1933, President Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, as part of the flurry of legislation that marked Roosevelt’s first 100 days in office. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was similar in purpose and scope to the Grand Coulee Dam. Even by Depression standards, the Tennessee River Valley (which includes parts of seven states: Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi) was in sad economic shape in 1933. Much of the land had been farmed too hard for too long, eroding and depleting the soil. Crop yields had fallen along with farm incomes. The best timber had been cut.

Congress established the TVA to address a wide range of environmental, economic, and technological issues, including the delivery of low-cost electricity and the management of natural resources. Sixteen dams and a steam plant were constructed by the TVA between 1933 and 1944. At its peak, a dozen hydroelectric projects and a steam plant were under construction at the same time, and design and construction employment reached a total of 28,000 workers. (http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h1653.html)

The dams controlled floods, improved navigation and generated electricity. The most dramatic change in Valley life came from the electricity generated by TVA dams. Electric lights and modern appliances made life easier and farms more productive. Electricity also drew industries into the region, providing desperately needed jobs. Today, TVA’s power service territory includes most of Tennessee and parts of Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia, covering 80,000 square miles and serving more than nine million people. The TVA developed fertilizers, taught farmers how to improve crop yields and helped replant forests, control forest fires, and improve habitat for wildlife and fish. (http://www.tva.com/abouttva/history.htm)

“The TVA Song”, Pete Seeger, words George Rucker, is a paean to the TVA project, https://youtu.be/jPWIm1MJnTY

It was down in the valley that’s called Tennessee
Uncle Sam started something in the year thirty-three
We dreamed a great dream then, that’s now here to stay
Saw democracy’s future when we built TVA

Now rivers that once ran unchecked to the sea
Use the force that was wasted for electricity
And, rains that washed topsoil away in the night
Helped the great turbines turn dark into light

Where once private power said it couldn’t be done
You can see farm lights twinkling, you can hear highlines hum
Fertilizer and science are reclaiming the soil
And REA co-ops help lighten the toil

From the vision of Norris, who was true to his dream
Came a blueprint for freedom and democracy’s team
The farmer and worker helped build a new day
That was built for the people of the great USA

“Thank God for the TVA, written by Jason Isbell and sung by Drive by Truckers (2009) sets out some of the benefits of the TVA. (https://youtu.be/2mK9C7s0jr0)

I grew up two hours north of Birmingham.
Me and my daddy used to fish next to Wilson Dam.
He told some stories about Camaros and J.W. Dant
When I got a little older I wouldn’t and now daddy can’t.

So I thank God for the TVA,
Thank God for the TVA,
When me and my daddy used to bow to the river and pray,
Thank God for the TVA.

When I was fifteen, me and my girl sat out on the lock,
Watching the raccoons and terrapins dance on the rocks.
She let me put my hand up under her shirt
I wanted her to want me so bad it hurt.

So I thank God for the TVA,
Thank God for the TVA,
When me and my baby used to lay ’round and wait on the day,
Thank God for the TVA.

My granddaddy told me when he was just seven or so,
His daddy lost work and they didn’t have a row to hoe,
Not too much to eat for seven boys and three girls
All lived in a tent, a bunch of sharecroppers versus the world.

So his mama sat down, wrote a letter to FDR,
‘En a couple days later, couple of county men came in a car,
Rode out in the field, told his daddy to put down the plow.
He helped build the dam, gave power to most of the South.

So I thank God for the TVA,
Thank God for the TVA,
When Roosevelt let us all work for an honest day’s pay,
Thank God for the TVA.

“Uncle Frank” is another song sung by the Drive by Truckers (1999) that was written by Jason Isbell. It points out the pros and cons of projects like the TVA. https://youtu.be/Awcv95jwWqY

They powered up the city with hydro-electric juice.
Now we got more electricity than we can ever use.
They flooded out the hollow and all the folks down there moved out,
but they got paid so there ain’t nothin’ else to think about.

Some of them made their living cutting the timber down,
snaking it one log at a time up the hill and into town.
T.V.A. had a way to clear it off real fast.
Lots of men and machinery, build a dam and drown the rest.

Uncle Frank lived in a cabin down on Cedar Creek,
bought fifteen acres when he got back home from overseas.
Fifteen rocky acres, figured no one else would want,
’till all that backed up water had to have some place to go.

Uncle Frank couldn’t read or write
Never held down a job, or needed one in his life.
They assured him there’d be work for him in town building cars.
It’s already going down.

The cars never came to town and the roads never got built
and the price of all that power kept on going straight uphill
The banks around the hollow sold for lake-front property
where doctors, lawyers, and musicians teach their kids to water-ski.

Uncle Frank couldn’t read or write
so there was no note or letter found when he died.
Just a rope around his neck and the kitchen table turned on its side

“The TVA Song, written and sung by Jean Thomas (1939) expresses the optimism that came from having a job provided by the TVA. (Looking for audio)

My name is William Edwards
I live down Cove Creek way.
I’m working on the project
They call the T.V.A.

“The Government begun it
When I was but a child
But now they are in earnest
and Tennessee’s gone wild.

“Just see them boys a-comin’
Their tool kits on their arm
They come from Clinch and Holston
And many a valley farm.

“Oh, see them boys a-comin,
Their Government they trust
Just hear their hammers ringing
They’ll build that dam or bust.

“I meant to marry Sally
But work I could not find
The T.V.A. was started
And surely eased my mind.

Oh things looked blue and lonely
Until this come along
Now hear the crew a-singin’

“The Government employs us,
Short hours and certain pay
Oh things are up and comin’,
God bless the T.V.A.”

“The Valley (TVA Song), was written and sung by Tessa Oglesby. (https://youtu.be/Xe27qc9yQQA) Not everyone thought the TVA was a good idea.

They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the water come down and wash it all away
They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the muddy water wash it all away

Well, the man from the TVA came to town
With the paper to take our homes and everything
He said they’re going to flood the valley soon
The TVA has taken away our land

Grand Dad said that he would never sign those papers
Said that he would never go down
Said that would never sign those papers
With His two hands he built this town

They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the water come down and wash it all away
They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the muddy water wash it all away

Well, the day came when they would let the water go
The day that we would leave it all behind
We help to let that muddy water go
Grand Dad would not sign

They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the water come down and wash it all away
They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the muddy water wash it all away

Now we just look upon the water
Now were going to … the lake
Somewhere underneath that muddy water
The TVA maybe is good

The say there going to flood the valley soon
Let the muddy water come down to wash it all away
They say they’re going to flood the valley soon
Let the muddy water wash it all away
That muddy water wash it all away

“TVA, written by Sam Quinn, sung by The Everybodyfields, represents another negative point of view regarding how the TVA’s took farm land away from farmers. (https://youtu.be/xKuKfvUygXE) Sam Quinn sings a solo of his song at (https://youtu.be/𔃀zMGbiQr4)

When I was a boy back in Tennessee
I was told I was too young to understand
I can remember just like yesterday
Seeing daddy’s hands deep down in his lands

Walking down the road to the old driveway
I remember the old house and the love
Sun shines off the water some three hundred feet away
But silo top sticks out five feet above

We never talked about the way
Daddy had nothing to say
So close your ears brave mother dear
And damn that TVA

I don’t need no dam for no damn FDR
Making power for some other factories
They can have their reasons, whatever they are
And take them back to their authority

God the Father said Jesus Christ
I don’t know about this electricity
Use the days and steal the nights and make my waters rise
And try to take my job away from me
We never talked about the way
Daddy had nothing to say
So close your ears
Brave mother dear, damn that TVA

Watch the video: How TVA Manages The Tennessee River System