According to author Joe Holley, the story of the Texas Electric Cooperatives, a collective of some 76 member-owned electric providers throughout the state, is a story of neighborliness and community, grit and determination, and persuasion and political savvy. It’s the story of a grassroots movement that not only energized rural Texas but also showed residents the power they have when they band together to find strength in unity. Opening with the coming of electricity to Texas’ major cities at the turn of the twentieth century, Power: How the Electric Co-op Movement Energized the Lone Star State describes the dramatic differences between urban and rural life. Though the major cities of Texas were marvels of nighttime brilliance, the countryside remained as dark as it had been for centuries before. It was not economical for the startup electrical companies to provide service to far-flung rural areas, so they were forced to do without. Beginning with the New Deal–era efforts of Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, and others, Holley chronicles the birth and development of the electric cooperative movement in Texas, including the 1935 federal act that created the Rural Electrification Administration. Holley concludes with the devastation wrought by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021 and the intense debate that continues around climate resilience and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), overseer of the state’s electric grid, all of which has profound implications for rural electric cooperatives who receive their allocations according to procedures administered by ERCOT. Power is sure to enlighten, entertain, and energize readers and policymakers alike.
About the Author
JOE HOLLEY is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist for the Houston Chronicle and author of several books, including Sutherland Springs: God, Guns, and Hope in a Texas Town.
“A deeply detailed exploration, by someone who witnessed it, of the inevitable and controversial reshaping of Texas”—Bill Minutaglio, 25-year member of a Texas co-op and author of A Single Star & Bloody Knuckles: A History of Politics and Race in Texas — Bill Minutaglio
“Joe Holley has a strong and tender gift for making a historical tale of personal struggle and gritty resolve as compelling as any fine novel. In his hands, what might have been a dry political past seethes on the page with immediate presences: of poor, hard-working farm families, of bull-headed Texas Congressmen fired-up by the sights of their own mothers’ backbreaking labors, of a piney-woods matron determined to change her whole world, of all the co-founders of electrical co-ops who discovered solutions to their own and their neighbors’ bleak conditions through the principles of true cooperation. The heroic story of how the pioneer advocates of rural electrification literally brought the power home to the people—defying both the giants of private electric companies and the Washington D.C. bureaucracies through the means of communal customer ownership, in order to switch on farmhouse lightbulbs and milking machines over the dark vastness of the state—is not only riveting but moving. The personalities of Sam Rayburn, Lyndon Johnson, and other warriors battling for the futures of country folk stride across Holley’s chapters with true outsized vitality. Holley’s writing never fails to bring the sounds, smells, and pictures of one-hundred-fifty-year-old towns into vivid cinematic life. And his account of how the farmers of Bartlett, a tiny community between Temple and Waco, banded together to become the first Rural Electrification Act project in America actually sprang tears to my eyes. I could not put this book down.”—Carol Dawson, author of Miles and Miles of Texas: 100 Years of the Texas Highway Department and House of Plenty: The Rise, Fall and Revival of Luby’s Cafeterias — Carol Dawson
“Not only is Power an insightful (and delightful) history of public power and rural Texas, it is a reminder that material progress doesn’t only come from the latest mad-child tech genius. Good things also spring from an overlooked civic virtue: cooperation.”—Bill Bishop, founding editor of The Daily Yonder and co-author of The Big Sort: Why The Clustering Of Like-Minded America Is Tearing Us Apart — Bill Bishop