Arthur Ernest Morgan

Arthur Ernest Morgan bigraphy, stories - First Chairman, Tennessee Valley Authority

Arthur Ernest Morgan : biography

20 June 1878 – 16 November 1975

Arthur Ernest Morgan (June 20, 1878–November 16, 1975) was a civil engineer, U.S. administrator, and educator. He was the design engineer for the Miami Conservancy District flood control system and oversaw construction. He served as the president of Antioch College between 1920 and 1936. He was also the first chairman of Tennessee Valley Authority from 1933 until 1938 in which he used the concepts proven in his earlier work with the Miami Conservancy District.

Early life

Arthur E. Morgan was born near Cincinnati, Ohio but his family soon moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota. After graduating from high school, he spent the next several years doing outdoors work in Colorado. During this time he learned that there was a dearth of practical understanding of hydraulic engineering. He returned home and took up practice with his father, learning about hydraulic engineering by apprenticeship. By 1910 he had founded his own firm and become an associate member of the American Society of Civil Engineers.


Always interested in progressive education, he sent his son Ernest to Marietta Johnson’s in Fairhope, Alabama, a pioneering progressive boarding school. Morgan’s first effort in education was to found the Moraine Park School, an experimental progressive school in Dayton, in 1917.Arthur Morgan Remembered by Ernest Morgan, p. 16, published by Community Service, Inc., Yellow Springs, Ohio, 1991 In 1921, Morgan became the first president of The Association for the Advancement of Progressive Education, later renamed in 1931 as Progressive Education Association (PEA).The Struggle for the American Curriculum by H. Kliebard, p. 168, published by Rutledge, 1955 In 1919, Morgan accepted the presidency of Antioch College to turn it around after a low point in the college’s finances. Morgan replaced the existing board of trustees, which had been dominated by quarrelsome local ministers, with prominent businessmen such as Charles Kettering, who had also backed Morgan’s efforts at the Moraine Park School. Between 1921 and 1933, board members and their friends donated more than $2 million to Antioch. Kettering alone donated $500,000. Morgan reorganized the educational program to include cooperative education and involved faculty in industrial research. The faculty, most personally chosen by Morgan, included not only academics but also architects, engineers, chemists, advertising executives, and government bureaucrats.Grand Plans: Business Progressivism and Social Change in Ohio’s Miami Valley by Judith Sealander, pp. 156–173, published by University Press of Kentucky, 1988

Until around the 1930s, Morgan was a member of the Unitarian Church.Arthur Morgan Remembered, p. 39; see also p. 89 In his later life, Morgan was a Humanist Quaker, a member of the Society of Friends in Yellow Springs, Ohio, as was his son Ernest.The Genesis of a Humanist Manifesto, chap. 18 After his departure from the TVA in 1938, Arthur Morgan was active in Quaker war relief efforts in Mexico and Finland. Among other accomplishments in the 1940s, he founded a non-profit organization to promote small communities (), helped to set up a system of rural universities in India, and fought to protect Native American (Seneca) land from the flooding by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.Arthur Morgan Remembered, pp. 82–83, 95–97, 103–108 Morgan was the author of more than twenty books. Two in the water field demonstrated his environmental orientation and his criticism of the Army Corps.Morgan, A. E. (1971) Dams and Other Disasters: A Century of the Army Corps of Engineers in Civil Works (Boston: Sargent). Idem (1974) Making of the TVA (Buffalo: Prometheus).

In 1962 Morgan’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth, with the help of his son Ernest, founded a progressive private school with humanist, Quaker, and Montessori influences, naming it the Arthur Morgan School.


After the disastrous Great Dayton, Ohio Flood in 1913, Morgan proposed a system of dry earthen dams to control the river systems above Dayton. His concepts were challenged because of his lack of formal engineering training, but eventually his plans were adopted and constructed, and the subsequent years proved the effectiveness of his concepts. Because of this success, he was chosen in 1933 to design and deploy the Tennessee Valley system of dams for flood control and electrification.