Our Own Hall of Fame
WORKS LONG DAY AT 82
Morgan Beat Illnesses to Build Dams, College
DAYTON DAILY NEWS, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 1961
BY MARY ELLEN LYNCH
Daily News Staff Writer
Fifth of a Series
Arthur E. Morgan is the man behind many of the nation’s gigantic flood control projects, but as a boy he kept getting his feet wet.
A weak sickly youngster, Morgan determined to build himself up his own way. It was drastic. He worked outdoors, slept in a tent in the north woods when the mercury was 30 below and—and after graduation from high school—floated down the Mississippi river on a log raft with $1.50 in his pocket.
He spent three years as a farm laborer, coal miner, sheep herder and logger and his prescription apparently worked.
TODAY, at 82, Morgan lives in “retirement” in Yellow Springs. He works 12 to 14 hours a day.
When Arthur Morgan was 10 he had the measles and the disease seriously weakened his eyes. He couldn’t go to college and he lamented: “I guess I will have to hoe corn for a living and be a philosopher for amusement.”
But Morgan finally did go to college. Not as a student, but as a president.
A NATIVE of Cincinnati, he grew up in the Mississippi river backwoods, worked on a farm and slept in a haystack during high school days in St. Cloud, Minn.
When he was 22, Morgan quit wandering, returned to Minnesota and became a land surveyor in partnership with his father. On his own he studied hydraulic and water control engineering. And at his desk, he found what had eluded him in all his travels—what he called “a purpose.”
Morgan started his own firm and within a few years had directed reclamation of more than two million acres of land in the Mississippi Valley, Colorado, Louisiana, Tennessee and Arkansas.
AFTER the disastrous 1913 flood he took on the job of flood control in Ohio, tramped the Miami Valley from one end to the other and came up with the giant system of dams that protects Dayton and nine other cities from rampaging waters.
Then, after 20 years as a flood control specialist, Morgan abruptly changed fields. In 1920 he became president of Antioch college and faced a new challenge: Instead of soggy land, a rapidly drying font of knowledge.
When Morgan came Antioch had 60 students. When h left it had 800. In between he inaugurated the cooperative work-study program (first in America at a liberal arts college), and saw the campus grow from four buildings on 20 acres of land to 35 on 1,000 acres.
IN 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt chose Morgan from 150 possibilities to head the newly-created Tennessee Valley Authority. At the time FDR called him “the best qualified man we could find in the country.”
For five years Morgan helped shape America’s first large-scale regional planning program. But he disagreed with some administration policies and on Mar. 22, 1938 Morgan was fired by President Roosevelt in the midst of a bitter political rumpus.
IN 1940 he founded an organization called Community Service, Inc., in Yellow Springs to study the problem and futures of small communities.
He has been decorated by the Seneca Indians, has aided in rehabilitating 500,000 displaced Finns, was one of two Americans invited by India to serve on a nine-man education commission, has been an advisor on development of the Gold Coast in British West Africa.
ARTHUR MORGAN, holder of four honorary doctorates and author of 16 books, is still working and writing. He is perhaps most worried about the disintegration of the world’s cultural heritage.
He says: “It probably took 50,000 years for man to learn to say ‘Good Morning.’ A lot of pain and suffering went into the life of our parents transmitted to us. But if we do not consciously preserve it, it may be lost.”
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