UMaine professor to speak on FDR

Posted Dec. 26, 2012, at 11:43 a.m.

DOVER-FOXCROFT, Maine — The Thompson Free Library and the Foxcroft Academy Social Studies Department will present the next event in the annual James Brown Lecture Series on Wednesday, Jan. 16. University of Maine professor Howard P. Segal will give a free public talk, “FDR and the Tennessee Valley Authority (1933): Promise and Disappointment,” at 7 p.m. at the Center Theatre on Main Street.

Following Segal’s lecture, the 1960 biographical film on Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “Sunrise at Campobello,” will be shown at 8:30 p.m. Refreshments will be served in the theater lobby between the lecture and the film.

Jan. 23 has been reserved as a snow date.

Roosevelt was president from 1933 to 1945 and is the only U.S. president elected to more than two terms.

The Tennessee Valley Authority was created as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal economic recovery plan during his first year in office. The TVA remains the largest government-owned industrial enterprise in American history, and it built dams and power stations, controlled floods, improved navigation and modernized agricultural production in the poverty-stricken Tennessee River Valley. The TVA is the largest public power utility in the U.S., with annual sales of $11 billion, and provides electricity to 9 million people in seven Southern states.

Segal is the Bird and Bird Professor of History and Director of the Technology and Society Project at the University of Maine, where he has taught since 1986. He earned his Ph.D at Princeton University and specializes in the history of technology and, secondarily, the history of science. Segal’s research and writing has been primarily in the history of American technology and the history of American utopianism.

“The establishment and evolution of the TVA during the New Deal exemplifies both the promise and the disappointment of big government projects in 20th century America,” said Segal. “In its early years TVA received international acclaim for its achievements in vision, in construction, in energy transmission and in environmental improvement. But well before President Roosevelt’s death in 1945 it had already been subject to criticism from several quarters — and not just the private utilities in the South that opposed its creation. At a time when any remotely similar big government projects at any level lack both legislative and popular support, it is useful to reconsider TVA’s early history.”

After the lecture and refreshments in the lobby, there will be a free screening of “Sunrise at Campobello,” starring Ralph Bellamy and Greer Garson as Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. The film portrays the initial struggle by FDR and his family when he was stricken with paralysis in 1921, at age 39, while at the family vacation home on Campobello Island, New Brunswick, off the coast of Maine. The extent of FDR’s disability was carefully concealed from the public throughout his presidency.

The lecture series has been endowed with memorial funds donated to the Thompson Free Library in memory of James Brown, who lost his life in a boating accident in 2008. The series presents lectures on topics related to history, literature and culture, areas of the humanities of great interest to Brown.

As the longtime chairman of the English Department at Foxcroft Academy, James Brown helped two generations of students explore the world of books. He was president of the Thompson Free Library Association and chaired its executive committee. Brown also was active in the Dover-Foxcroft Historical Society.

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