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
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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