Bush nominates Memphian for TVA

William Graves is senior bishop of CME denomination

Posted on August 4, 2006

WASHINGTON -- President Bush on Thursday nominated Bishop William H. Graves of Memphis to be a member of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority for the remainder of a 5-year term expiring next May. The long-awaited announcement of the ninth and final member of the board marks the first time a black director has been named in TVA's seven-decade history. Graves, 70, is senior bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, which is based at 4466 Elvis Presley Blvd. He could not immediately be reached for comment. A son of sharecroppers born in Brownsville, Tenn., Graves attended Lane College in Jackson and the Phillips School of Theology of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta. He has pastored in Atlanta; Gary, Ind.; Beloit, Wis.; and Los Angeles. In 1982, he was named the 42nd bishop of the First District of the CME Church. A self-described registered Democrat who votes independent, Graves also served as a Shelby County co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney 2004 re-election effort. Both Tennessee's Republican senators hailed the selection. "Bishop Graves' nomination ensures that West Tennessee's interests are fully represented on the board, and his distinction as the first African-American board member in TVA's history makes this nomination truly momentous," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn. "This nomination completes the job of reforming the TVA board that I first undertook nine years ago and that culminated in passage of my legislation a year and a half ago," Frist added. "The six new board members the Senate confirmed in March are doing an excellent job. Bishop Graves will complete the strongest board in TVA's history, and I look forward to swift Senate consideration of his nomination." Sen. Lamar Alexander said: "Memphis, TVA's largest customer, will be well represented on the TVA board by William Graves. I'm delighted that President Bush has now completed his nominations for the new TVA board, and I hope William Graves will be confirmed as soon as possible." Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division president Joseph Lee said he was "excited and extremely elated" at the nomination of Graves, who Lee noted is a former MLGW board member. He said it was "wonderful for the city of Memphis" to have direct representation on the TVA board. Besides being the first African-American, Lee noted that Graves is also the first Memphian. "This is a tremendous occasion worthy of celebration," Lee said. For months, there has been speculation that one of two black Memphians were in contention for the post overseeing the country's largest public power company with $8 billion in yearly revenues. The other had been Herman Morris, a lawyer and the former head of MLGW. Frist sponsored legislation to change the structure of the TVA board, expanding it from three full-time members to nine part-time members, and required the agency to hire a chief executive officer to oversee day-to-day operations. As CME bishop, Graves has attended the World Council of Churches in New Delhi, India, and Uppsala, Sweden, and the World Methodist Conferences in London, Dublin, Rio de Janeiro, Singapore and Britain, according to press accounts.