By Philip Reed

Robert Louis McPhail, the first person to serve as administrator of Western Area Power Administration, passed away Sept. 28 at the age of 85.

McPhail was born Nov. 18, 1935 in Calhoun City, Mississippi. He attended the University of Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in geology and a master’s degree in geological engineering.

He worked for the Bureau of Reclamation for 21 years before serving as a staff engineer in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Water and Power.

On Dec. 21, 1977, the Department of Energy announced the establishment of Western Area Power Administration, and on June 18, 1978, McPhail was named the power marketing administration’s first administrator.

In 1984, he accepted a position as general manager and CEO of Basin Electric Power Cooperative in North Dakota, where he served until his retirement in 1999. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to an Alzheimer’s charity.

Note: Reed is a public affairs specialist. 

Last modified on September 12th, 2023