Kay Steed

Oral History Videos

Kay Steed

Secretary to Jack Case, in her words, a “prince” of a man

Now Playing

  • How did you come to arrive at Oak Ridge (0:32)
  • What was your job at Y-12? (2:40)
  • The greatest boss (1:09)
  • What do you remember most about working with Jack Case? (0:24)
  • Tell us about Jack Case’s listening skills (0:27)
  • Were there any comical moments in Jack Case’s tenure...? (2:27)
  • Jack Case’s reputation in the other parts of the Weapons Complex (0:39)
  • What kind of relationship did Jack Case have with the community? (0:33)
  • What kinds of outdoor sports did Jack Case enjoy? (0:38)
  • What kind of relationship did Jack Case have with his staff? (1:23)
  • Did Jack Case keep a union card? (0:13)
  • What would Jack Case think of the building named in his honor? (0:23)
  • Do you remember Jack Case’s retirement party? (1:21)
  • In one word (0:08)

Transcript

HOW DID YOU COME TO ARRIVE AT OAK RIDGE?

Well, I was graduating high school and a recruiter came from Tennessee Eastman to our high school, and five members of my class joined on and came to Oak Ridge together. After the war I was the only one who stayed. The rest of them went back home to go to school, to get married, whatever. I stayed and made a career here at Y-12.

WHAT WAS YOUR JOB AT Y-12?

When I first came I went into Stena pool. It was up in what they call the castle on the hill until my clearance came though, and we had about 60 recruits in that class, and during the day we would practice typing shorthand business English and the general subjects. It was like going to class every day. When my clearance came through they sent me to Y–12, and there was a stena pool there. If a secretary or a member of an office crew was on vacation we would do substitute duty until they returned, and it was great experience for someone who had no experience, and I took advantage of every opportunity they gave me, and it worked out really well. When Tennessee Eastman left after the war and Carbide was coming in I was offered the opportunity to be a division’s secretary for the man who was going to head up all the financial operations, and he accepted me on interview. And I worked in that capacity until 1961, and at that time I was looking for; I really wanted a broader view of the Y-12 operation, and I went to work for Ken Sommerfeld who was a new engineer and had prospects for having a great career. I never regretted the move. I took a demotion in order to go. And when he went to K-25 to be production manager or operations manager, I’m not sure the exact title, Mr. Case’s secretary was getting married and leaving the area, and he interviewed me for the job and I accepted and that was in 1968, and I worked for him until I retired in 1982. When I first started working for Mr. Case I think he was deputy plant manager. I don’t believe he had been made fully plant manager at that time, but it did follow soon after that.

THE GREATEST BOSS

Everyone should have the opportunity for working with Mr. Case. Everyone should have the opportunity. He was the greatest boss anyone could ever imagine having. He showed me great respect, great fairness. Everyday was really a joy to come to work. I thoroughly enjoyed the time that I spent with him. He showed me great respect. He backed me fully every day. Everything I did I always knew I had his backing. He was very fair, very honest, very companionate, and it was a joy to come to work very day. Working for Mr. Case was one of the joys of my life, and I’m very glad he came at the end of my career because it just put a perfect ending to my career, and I enjoyed every minute that I worked for him.

WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT WORKING WITH JACK CASE?

When I think of working with him I—it’s just the interpersonal relationship. He was so great. You could approach him with any problem you had knowing that he was going to help you solve it.

TELL US ABOUT JACK CASE’S LISTENING SKILLS
Mr. Case was a great listener. He would hear you out without making any comment, and all the time he would be nodding his head, and you would pretty much know what he was thinking. But when it was all over then he would have a great summation of what you had told him and what he thought about it.

WHERE THERE ANY COMICAL MOMENTS IN JACK CASE’S LIFE TENURE
AS PLANT MANAGER?

Mr. Case was very serious in his business dealings, but he did have his lighter moments. I recall one incident where there was a gentlemen who had left the plant, left employment due to medical reasons, and he was having a problem getting reimbursed for his medical expenses, and he had dealt with benefit plans, and they had not answered his or responded the way the thought they should, and he was going through channels, and he was saying that he was going to do bodily harm to Jack Case if they didn’t get it settled, and he knew that would get action. So it happened on a day when Mr. Case happened to be on a business trip, and the security people knew that he was due in Knoxville McGhee Tyson at a certain time. Well, they met the plane, escorted him home, told him what was happening, and he wasn’t in the least concerned. He knew the gentleman that they were speaking of, and when they got to the office and they made all these plans about what they were going to do, you know, to stabilize the situation, Mr. Case just picked up the phone and called the gentleman at home and said, “I hear you’re gunning for me.” And it just, you know, captured the moment. And he had a fairly long conversation with the gentleman. He told him, he says, “Don’t worry about your medical expenses. They’re going to be taken care of. I promise you they will be taken care of.” And he said, “By the way, do you feel like shooting skeet on Saturday?” And he hung up the phone. After he hung it up he said, “I’ve shot skeet with that man for year, and if he’s gunning for me I know he’ll hit me.” When it was all over I told him how much I admired how he handled the situation because it could have really become a full blown tragedy.

WHAT WAS JACK CASE’S REPUTATION IN THE OTHER PARTS OF THE WEAPONS COMPLEX?

The design labs had great respect for Mr. Case, and I think that is exhibited by the way they responded at his retirement. They always enjoyed coming to Y-12. They enjoyed having him visit their facilities, and they just, he was a gentleman they all looked up to, and when there was a problem to be coordinated they always sought his advice and leadership and expertise.

WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP DID JACK CASE HAVE WITH THE COMMUNITY?

Mr. Case worked a lot with the sheltered work shop. In fact, I think he was one of the original organizers of the work shop. He didn’t have anyone in his family, but he knew friends who had children who needed such a facility, and he spent a great deal of time with that facility I know.

WHAT KINDS OF OUTDOOR SPORTS DID JACK CASE ENJOY?

Mr. Case was a great outdoorsman. In addition to shooting skeet he loved to dove hunt. And he had an association of several gentlemen who he hunted with. They may not have been high in the organization. He enjoyed shooting with just the average Joe, and many times on weekends he would go dove hunting I know.

WHAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP DID JACK CASE HAVE WITH HIS STAFF?

Mr. Case had great relationship with the people who were under his direction. He called regular staff meetings. He let each person talk. Many times he would just sit and listen when they discussed a subject, but when it came down to decision time then he spoke, and usually no one had disagreement with the decision. Mr. Case had great relationship with people at all levels of the plant. He told me many times that when he started out as an apprentice in the tool and dye making business that he did everything from cleaning spittoons until he got his apprenticeship. He said, “If you don’t think that will humble you, you don’t know until you try it.” He said, “At that time I made up my mind if I ever had the position of directing other people that I would treat them as equals and treat them fairly and treat them with respect.” And he always did that regardless of who he was dealing with.

DID JACK CASE KEEP A UNION CARD?

As a matter of fact Mr. Case continued to carry his union card until the day he retired, as far as I know, and was very proud of it.

WHAT WOULD JACK CASE THINK OF A BUILDING NAMED IN HIS HONOR?

I have observed the status of the new Jack Case building, and I think he would be amazed and humbled and very proud to have such an honor.

DO YOU REMEMBER JACK CASE’S RETIREMENT PARTY?

I recall going to his retirement party, and it was the largest that I think was ever given in Oak Ridge. It was a very cold night, and I recall we had to park it seemed like miles away and walk, and I had on high heel shoes and sandals, and it was very cold. I was freezing when I got inside the building, and it doesn’t seem there’s a lot of heat in the building either, and he met me at the door. He was in the receiving line, but he said that he had been waiting, that he had been told that I wasn’t there yet. Joan Wallace of the Oakridger was standing there and she did a little interview with me from the Oakridger. And I recall all the accolades that were given to him that night, but the one that meant the most was the one he gave to me, and he told how much he had enjoyed working with me and what our relationship was, and it was just a great moment for me as well as just him.

IN ONE WORD

If I could describe Jack Case with one word it would be “Prince”