1937. Chuck Glover, a big city northerner, is the latest and probably last in long line of people hired to head a property acquisition field office of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the job which has taken its toll on his predecessors. It is a short term job in that the dam is already built downstream with that section of the valley soon to be flooded. There is only one last property that needs to be acquired, an island in the river belonging to long widowed octogenarian Ella Garth, who has so far refused to sell. Chuck's superiors would rather he come to a negotiated settlement with Mrs. Garth than force her off the land, as they do not want the negative publicity of bullying an eighty year old woman. Upon Chuck's initial visit to the island, he finds that four generations of Garths still live there, along with a large number of black sharecroppers of who Mrs. Garth generally takes care. As Mrs. Garth doesn't say a word in that initial visit, Chuck believes she may be senile. Although Mrs. Garth doesn't like what Chuck is trying to do to her, he finds he begins to have a deep affection for her. She is not senile but one of the most clear headed and principled people he knows, she who has a special emotional attachment to the land where she has long lived. Some speculate that Mrs. Garth would not survive living anywhere else, a premature demise which Chuck does not want to see in his respect for her. What may be just as problematic for Chuck is the idea he has to take care of the black sharecroppers on her land, who he wants to see treated as fairly as any citizen of the valley. This idea does not sit well with the white racist element of the area, led by the brutish Hank Bailey. Further complicating the situation is the fact that Chuck and Mrs. Garth's widowed granddaughter Carol Baldwin fall for each other. One of the complicating factors is that Carol is engaged to kind and caring Walter Clark, a man she doesn't love and would only marry for a father for her two small children.