Local Author Talk: Dr. Colin Baxter

Dr. Colin Baxter, Emeritus Professor of History at ETSU, will be discussing his new book on Wednesday, October 17 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. at the library. Dr. Baxter’s book, The Secret History of RDX, tells the fascinating story of the secret super-explosive substance, Research Department Explosive, code-named RDX.

RDX is a powder explosive that was secretly manufactured near Kingsport, Tennessee during World War II. Production of the substance, which played a key role in the Allied victory, provided employment for thousands of people in East Tennessee. Dr. Baxter draws from archival records and interviews with people who worked at the “powder plant” to illustrate both the explosive’s role in the military victory and the significant impact of its production on the local community. Using this localized experience, Dr. Baxter’s book also speaks to the larger social and economic consequences of the military-industrial complex on American towns during WWII.

Dr. Baxter says that this incredible story has largely gone unnoticed outside of East Tennessee, even though it has extensive reach. He explains, farmland “where dairy cows and livestock had grazed contentedly near the Holston River, almost overnight, became ‘The Great Holston Ordnance Works’ for the manufacture of the world’s most powerful explosive until the atomic bomb.” Dr. Baxter thought it was important to weave together the local and the global stories of RDX.

To learn more about Dr. Baxter’s upcoming talk, please contact Pam Murray at 423-434-4454 or pam.murray@jcpl.net.

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