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Congress of Appalachian Development


Gordon Ebersole was born in Wakefield, Nebraska on February 23, 1910. Beginning in 1935, he worked as a Bureau of Reclamation civil engineer on the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River. During World War II he served as a photomapping officer in India and as assistant staff engineer for the 8th Air Force in Okinawa, Japan. After the war, he first worked on the Missouri Basin project with the Bureau of Reclamation, then transferred to Washington, D. C. in 1951. He held the position of Assistant Chief, Division of Foreign Activities until 1958.

In 1959-60 Ebersole went to Korea as Chief of the Division of Technical Training to work with the Korean United States Operations Mission. Upon his return in early 1961, Ebersole became staff assistant in Secretary of Interior Stewart Udall's office. As a member of Interior's Resources Program Staff, Ebersole was responsible for helping coordinate Interior activities in the Area Redevelopment Administration. In this capacity, Ebersole made his first trip to Appalachia in 1963, meeting with Harry Caudill of Whitesburg, Kentucky, a noted lawyer and author of Night Comes to the Cumberlands, and Tom Gish, also of Whitesburg, and editor of The Mountain Eagle. After his retirement in 1965, Ebersole continued to work with Caudell and Gish on Appalachian development issues. Ebersole worked as a consultant with various Appalachian groups; served on the board of the Council of Southern Mountains; and with Caudill, Gish and others, formed the Congress for Appalachian Development in 1966.

The Congress for Appalachian Development (CAD) was incorporated November 25, 1966 in West Virginia. Its stated purpose was "to restore self-government in the Appalachian Mountains in order to wisely conserve and develop the human and natural resources of the region for the common benefit of all the people residing therein." It was dedicated to helping the people of southern Appalachia achieve: 1. "A rebirth of democratic ideals and institutions of the region. 2. Basic reforms to enable the people to utilize enough of the wealth flowing from extraction of the region's natural resources to finance, insofar as possible, the institutions and services essential to a mature, dignified, comfortable and civilized society. 3. The preservation and maximum restoration of the Appalachian landscape, its water, air, land, and natural beauty; and its continuance as a decent environment for this and future generations. 4. A frank recognition of the fact that most of the area is dominated and exploited by and for the benefit of absentee industrial and financial interests, and that the lawful and just acquisition and utilization of these resources for the public should be encouraged."

On September 17, 1966, E. S. Fraley, a retired farmer from Bristol, Virginia, and Harry Caudill, invited 25 concerned persons to a meeting in Bristol. A steering committee was appointed, and the Congress for Appalachian Development had its start. The first general meeting of the Congress for Appalachian Development occurred on January 21, 1967 at Abingdon, Virginia, with 250 persons in attendance, representing the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Virginia, and Georgia. Support drawn to the organization ranged from state senators and representatives, such as Paul Kaufman; veterans of government agencies, such as Lee Smith, Bureau of Reclamation, and Gordon Ebersole, Department of the Interior; Kirby Billingsley, president of State of Washington public utility district; magazine and newspaper editors and writers, such as Grady Clay, Landscape Architecture, John Fetterman, Louisville Courier-Journal, and Tom Gish, The Mountain Eagle; members of the Council of Southern Mountains; and activists already established in the mountains, such as Milt Ogle of the Appalachian Volunteers, and Don West of the Appalachian South Folklife Center at Pipestem, West Virginia.

Publicity about CAD was also far reaching. Virtually every regional newspaper carried articles about Congress for Appalachian Development proposals and activities, as did such nationally-known publications as the Wall Street Journal and the Congressional Record.

The two main thrusts of the Congress for Appalachian Development were regional public ownership and development, particularly in the area of power production, and the creation of a new series of towns along the mountain chain. The idea of creating public utility districts traced its roots to Ebersole's early career in the Columbia River Basin.

As a consequence, CAD pointed to projects in the state of Washington as precedents. Because of the high level of expertise represented by members of CAD, spokespersons for the organization were often called upon to testify before Congressional subcommittees and the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) concerning projects undertaken in Appalachia. Most notable among these projects was the Blue Ridge Project, a proposed series of dams planned for the New River in Virginia.

Despite the interest and political support of Kentucky Senator John Sherman Cooper, Montana's Senator Lee Metcalf, Maine's Senator Edmund Muskie, and others, the organization failed to received adequate financial backing. An earlier and incorrect association in the minds of some Appalachians with TVA (considered socialistic by many) and an actual association with the Appalachian Volunteers (also considered radical) did not inspire regional support for the Congress for Appalachian Development.

Lack of funds caused CAD to close its Washington, D. C. office late in 1967. Except for a brief revival in connection with the New River controversy in 1970, the organization ceased to exist approximately one year after its first meeting in Bristol.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Congress for Appalachian Development: Gordon Ebersole Collection

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AppMs-74
Arrangement The collection includes maps, publications, and numerous photographs. Maps have been stored with the archives' map collection and photographs in the photographic storage area. Frequently used publications have been placed in the archives' vertical file for more immediate accessibility. Other publications remain with the collection.The addition contains material which falls within the following existing series/subseries: Subseries 1.3, Congress for Appalachian Development Activities...
Dates: 1929-1977