Minimalists in History: Arthur Morgan of the TVA

arthur morgan

“Lack of something to feel important about is almost the greatest tragedy a man may have.”

– Arthur Morgan

Arthur Morgan, first chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, launched a string of successful dam-building projects. But, he thought, the dams were only part of a larger effort to reinvent civilization.

Believing small towns and family life the most virtuous form of living, Morgan wanted to restore republican simplicity to the rural US. He believed people should live focus on community, civic virtue and enlightened resource management.

He used the TVA to promote community living. Through the TVA, he stimulated small cottage industries, organized cooperatives and provided educational and cultural opportunities for adults.

“With the help of designer Earle Draper, TVA Chairman Arthur Morgan created a town that still seems forward-thinking today.”

City of Norris

Morgan also created a number of planned communities, including the town of Norris, built to house the workers building Norris Dam, as well as to show America that cooperative living works.

The houses were modestly sized and built of local materials. The town, surrounded by a buffer of forest, was designed to be pedestrian-friendly.

TVA gave up control of Norris in 1948, and the government auctioned off the land. It’s now a bedroom community for Knoxville and Oak Ridge.

Morgan founded Celo Community in 1937. It’s still in existence today as a land trust with an internal government based on ideals of cooperation between residents and care for the environment. Forty households occupy its 1200 acres.

“A good community will not be invented, discovered or ‘just grow.’

– Arthur Morgan

Morgan later founded two organizations to promote community, Community Service Inc. (CSI) and the Fellowship of Intentional Communities (FIC).

He created CSI to advance family life and small towns, since he believed small towns provide places for people to experience respect, cooperation, and personal relationships.

It’s still around today, based in Yellow Springs, Ohio. CSI “advocates for small communities and the benefits of face-to-face relationships in a particular place.

The organization envisions a world where people live sustainably and cooperatively in smaller communities which are diverse, equitable, and just.”

Morgan created FIC to foster relationships between communal settlements by cultivating communication and the exchange of products between communities. While it withered away, dissolving in 1961, it was reorganized as a nonprofit in 1986.

FIC now “nurtures connections and cooperation among communitarians and their friends.” Among other things, it provides publications, referrals, support services, and sharing opportunities for those interested in intentional communities.

2 thoughts on “Minimalists in History: Arthur Morgan of the TVA

I'd love for you to share your ideas and experiences.