Gilbert F. White
Q: Okay. You got your data on the lower Mississippi partly from the Corps and
then you came back to Washington and drafted a report?
A: It was an iterative process of preparing a report which the committee finally
produced under the chairmanship of Morris L. Cooke, who had been
designated by the President for this committee under Ickes.
Q: And what did the report finally say?
A: The report recommended a whole series of policies and projects for the
Mississippi Valley. At the time, I did not realize fully that a part of the
hidden agenda for the report was Morris Cooke's deep personal concern for
rural electrification. Some of us on the staff were surprised that so much
attention was given to information of a statistical and graphical sort about the
lack of electrification on farms in the United States and the Mississippi
One of the outcomes of submitting the report was the establishment of the
Rural Electrification Administration, and one of the men whom Cooke had
brought in with him to serve on the committee-Harlow Person--and his
assistants, E.J. Coil, S. P. Langhoff, and Perry Taylor, immediately went into
setting up the new Rural Electrification Administration.
From this I learned that there are skillful people who take a public assignment
of this sort, pick out one or two practicable outcomes, and then focus on
those. In this case, Cooke focused on establishing REA. The other members
of the Mississippi Valley Committee weren`t interested in REA but they
cooperated in getting out a report which enabled Cooke to persuade Roosevelt
to establish the administration. Some of the members of the committee, I
know, felt a little disappointed because Cooke didn't spend much time trying
to push their other recommendations.
Q: Well, this report comes at a time when there was still a great deal of
controversy over the single-purpose versus multi-purpose approach to river
development. And, as you know, there were many people in the Corps who
still considered that navigation ought to be the primary goal of federal