Sunday, May 25, 2014

Evocative Artifact from the Appalachian Observer (a/k/a "Aggravatin' Disturber" As District Attorney General James Nelson Ramsey Kiddingly Called Us)

This morning, I unpacked an evocative artifact from my 26th year on this frail planet. It is a framed black and white photo of me from 1983, when I was editor of the fledgling Appalachian Observer, which our reform District Attorney General, Nelson Ramsey, was know to call the "Aggravatin' Disturber."
I was photographed at the Oak Ridge Federal Building loading dock, lifting into a friend's tiny Honda one of six boxes of mercury air readings from the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons plant in Oak Ridge, Tennessee during 1958-62 (establishing the presence of some 30-60 times then prevailing health standard for mercury in the air that workers breathed without respirators). Until May 17, 1983, when we got it declassified, it was a "classified national security secret" that Oak Ridge had half the mercury in the "free world" (and "lost 10% of that -- 4.2 million pounds). Then I demanded and got the Department of Energy Oak Ridge Operations Manager, Mr. Joe Ben LaGrone, to order Union Carbide Corporation Nuclear Division to incur overtime on an urgent basis, releasing the 30,000 pages with a full fee waiver, just before I started law school at Memphis State University.
The editor of publisher Ernest F. Phillips' other newspaper, Campbell County News Editor John Thompson Harding, who grew up in Oak Ridge, took, developed and printed the photo, then typed an inscription for the photo, which John framed and gave me before I left for law school. The inscription reads: "What? Only 30,000 pages? I asked for all your inculpatory documents."
We shall overcome.

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