History of Cullman Electric Cooperative
Who would have thought that a trip to Warm Springs, Georgia, by then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, would have meant so much, especially to rural residents in North Alabama? While there for polio therapy, FDR noticed his electric bill was over three times higher than it was in New York. Electricity only existed where it was “profitable,” and there were no guidelines for the electric rate structure. With the help of Congressmen George W. Norris of Nebraska, Sam Rayburn of Texas, Lister Hill and John Sparkman of Alabama, President Roosevelt created the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933, and Rural Electrification Administration in 1935. In addition, the Alabama Cooperative Act of 1935 made it legal for farmers to organize non-profit cooperatives. Relief was coming to a nation where people who lived outside of bustling cities had to endure life without electricity.
Fourteen Cullman County farmers, after being turned down for electricity by Alabama Power Company and the Cullman Power Board, headed up the effort to electrify rural Cullman County. Alabama Power Company owned lines in Hanceville and one from the Marshall County line to Fairview, but because it was believed to be unprofitable, they were not interested in expanding their service to include all the families that wanted electricity (the co-op later purchased the right from Alabama Power to serve all the people of rural Cullman County). Cullman Power Board generated its own electricity, but lacked the capacity to serve rural Cullman County.
Refusing to give up, the 14 farmers drove their own wagons and Ford Model As house to house over the countryside, collecting the $5 member ship fees from other farmers.
Once word spread of the farmers’ efforts, Alabama Power sued the 14 organizers of Cullman EC to stop its organization. Attorney William E. James defended Cullman EC and helped convince the judge that the co-op was to become a reality.
When enough families had signed up per mile, REA sent an engineer from Washington, D.C., to do a feasibility study. Cullman EC’s first loan for $105,000 was approved, and the 14 men met in Mr. James’ office on May 25, 1936, to make the formation of Cullman EC official. They literally “passed the hat” and dug the crumpled dollar bills out of their pockets to pay the legal fees. These dedicated men never received compensation of their years of hard work and sacrifice.
The 14 farmers, now the co-op’s first board of directors, decided to hire their first employee, Gladys Graham, who took care of all the inside duties from secretarial to cashier. Later the co-op hired M.C. Lovvorn to hang transformers, install meters and take care of power outages.
Cullman EC energized its first lines just east of the city of Cullman on Aug. 4, 1936, picking up 350 customers with 30 miles of line. Cullman EC was the second co-op in the state to incorporate, but was the first one to energize its lines.
— This story was published in the February 2011 Alabama Living magazine as part of Cullman EC’s 75th anniversary celebration. Information for the article was taken from “Cullman Electric Cooperative – Beginning a New Era,” published in 1995.
Date of Organization: May 25, 1936
- H.E. Heck
- Charlie Fehrentz
- J.S. Bland
- Emmett S. Oden
- C.N. Ruehl
- O.A. Ellard
- H.R. Lowry
- R. Lem Bates
- W.L. Bowling
- W.T. Clemons
- W.F. Dahlke
- W.E. Humphries
- W.E. Rainwater
- W.E. Ballard
Number of Member Accounts Served: 41,907
Source of Wholesale Power: Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
Date Energized First Lines: August 4, 1936 – 30 miles, 350 members
Incorporated Towns Served
- Garden City
- Holly Pond
- Good Hope
- West Point
- Dodge City
Member Accounts Served by County
- Cullman – 35,158
- Lawrence – 111
- Morgan – 806
- Winston – 5,832
Check out what we do in this short informational video on YouTube. 24 Hours at Cullman EC