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S. David Freeman (1926–2020), ‘green cowboy’ who led the Tennessee Valley Authority

by Linnea Crowther

S. David Freeman was a renewable energy champion who led the Tennessee Valley Authority and advised presidents on green power.

The green cowboy

Freeman spent his career in the energy business, but his focus was less on making money and more on promoting efficiency. Known for his signature cowboy hat and his unrelenting drive toward more widespread renewable energy, Freeman was appointed chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the largest public utility in the U.S., in 1978. There, he worked to suppress the development of new nuclear power plants in favor of bringing new solar and wind power to the region. Freeman later led the Lower Colorado River Authority, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District, the New York Power Authority, and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, bringing new clean energy initiatives wherever he went. He served as an advisor to presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter.

Freeman on his career in green energy

“I’ve been called a lot of bad things. I was called a socialist in the Nixon administration for pushing energy efficiency. I don’t feel like I’m making my case if I don’t have somebody pissed off at me.” —from a 2018 interview with E&E News

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What people said about him

Full obituary: The Washington Post

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