Lilienthal, David Eli

   The son of Czech immigrants, David Lilienthal was born in Morton, Illinois. He attended DePauw University and Harvard Law School. After graduating in 1923, he practiced law in Chicago. His expertise in utility law led to his appointment to the Wisconsin State Utility Commission in 1931, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed him head of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) in 1933 with responsibility for the power program. Lilienthal clashed with one of the codirectors, Harcourt Morgan, over charging lower rates than existing power companies. Although Roosevelt removed Morgan from office, Lilienthal was also publicly attacked by Wendell Willkie, who headed a major utility company in the Tennessee Valley. Lilienthal survived, and the TVA eventually purchased Willkie’s company. In 1941,
   Lilienthal became chair of the TVA. His outspoken defense of the authority often led to clashes with members of Congress. Lilienthal’s position is summed up in his book, TVA: Democracy on the March (1944).
   Reappointed chair by President Harry S. Truman in 1945, in January 1946 Lilienthal moved to become chair of an advisory committee on atomic energy and then head of the new Atomic Energy Commission (AEC). Despite some congressional opposition, he was confirmed in the post in April 1947. He expanded the production of atomic weapons and the use of atomic energy in private industry. His term was extended for another two years in 1948. After resigning in 1950, Lilienthal became an industrial consultant and then head of an industrial minerals producing company. In 1955, he was appointed chief executive of an international resource development organization. Although a controversial figure, Lilienthal received many public awards, including the Public Welfare Medal of the National Academy of Sciences and commendations from the governments of Brazil and Peru.
   See also Atomic bomb.

Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . . 2015.

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