Arthur E. Morgan

From Ohio History Central

Arthur Ernest Morgan was born in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1878. Soon after his birth, the Morgan family moved to St. Cloud, Minnesota, where Morgan grew up. His father was an engineer, and Morgan learned his skills from him. At the age of thirty-two, Morgan became president of the Morgan Engineering Company and became involved in flood control projects that were part of the Miami Conservancy District.

As vice-president of the American Unitarian Association, Morgan became a member of the Board of Trustees of Antioch College in 1919. The college was not doing very well at the time, but Morgan had a vision of what the school could become. In 1920, he became president of Antioch, a position that he held until 1936. As president, Morgan stressed the need for students to become well-rounded human beings, focusing on making a contribution to the world rather than just concentrating on a field of study. Under his leadership, the college gained a national reputation for its quality education. Morgan introduced an innovative concept that he called “work-study” during his time as Antioch's president. Students attended classes for one term, and then took time off to work as interns in the outside world. Morgan believed that hands-on experience was as valuable as classroom learning, and he worked to create a program at Antioch College that reflected that belief.

In 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Arthur Morgan as director of the Tennessee Valley Authority, more commonly known as the TVA. In this position, Morgan was able to apply lessons that he had learned during the Miami River dam projects in the 1910s. Morgan envisioned an agency that would not only offer electricity to its customers but also change Americans' standard of living. He became involved in conflicts with others involved in the agency and was ultimately removed from his position in 1938 after voicing public criticism of the program's direction.

Morgan had a long-lasting influence in utopian movements and the creation of ideal societies. He wrote a biography of the famous nineteenth-century utopian writer Edward Bellamy, but he also used his ideas to breathe new life into small communities in Ohio, Tennessee, and elsewhere. Morgan died in 1975.

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