RE Magazine

LBJ Helps Start a Co-op 

In early 1938, future President Lyndon B. Johnson―then a 29-year-old freshman member of the U.S. House―helped establish Pedernales Electric Cooperative, based in Johnson City, Texas, now the largest electric distribution cooperative in America.


By Frank K. Gallant with Raymond Kuhl

LBJ Starts a Co-op

Two Democratic U.S. presidents, Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1933–45) and Lyndon Baines Johnson (1963–69), also known as LBJ, will be remembered as ardent advocates of rural electrification and electric co-ops.

Roosevelt, who created the federal Rural Electrification Administration (REA) by executive order in 1935, was introduced to the issue while serving as governor of New York. Once in the White House, he listened to agricultural organizations and others who were pushing to make central station power available to farms, ranches, and villages and soon came to understand the benefits it would provide the entire nation.

But as an urban man of wealth and privilege, Roosevelt didn’t really know rural America or the people who inhabited it. LBJ, on the other hand, grew up in a small central Texas town surrounded by crops and livestock. He saw his mother do the family washing in a tub and strain her eyes reading the Bible by dim kerosene lamps. He and his brother hauled water from a well and heated it over a wood fire on wash day.

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