Lighting the Way

Lighting the Way

(Cooperative Connections, Nov. 2019, Vol. 20, No. 7)

Tennessee Valley Authority

During his first hundred days in office, President Roosevelt rolled out his New Deal plan, which included affordable access to rural electricity. FDR began the surge toward full rural electrification in May 1933, by establishing the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which electrified rural Tennessee at rates a fraction of those charged elsewhere by private utilities through leveraging local hydropower and cutting out the middleman.

                U.S. Rep. John Rankin, TVA benefit speech excerpt              (National Broadcasting Co., 2 Feb. 1935)

"Shaded area indicates the sphere of development by the Tennessee Valley Authority." (Charleston Daily Mail, 12 Nov. 1933)

"We are planning so that the men and women of the Tennessee Valley, and ultimately of the country, and their children and their grandchildren may have a happier life."

-Dr. Arthur Morgan, Chairman, Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors (Charleston Daily Mail, 12 Nov. 1933)

Rural Electrification Administration

Energized by the TVA's success, in 1935, FDR established the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), which utilized an expanded version of the TVA model to initiate, administer, and oversee projects for the generation and distribution of affordable rural electricity. Congress passed the Rural Electrification Act in 1936, which made the REA a permanent federal agency and allocated $100,000,000 for a government lending program that became the primary mechanism for electrifying the rural frontier.

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."

                  -President Franklin Roosevelt, Inaugural Address                    (FDR Presidential Library and Museum, 20 Jan. 1937)

(The Roanoke Rapids Herald​​​​​​​, 3 Oct. 1935)

 (The Humboldt Republican, 21 Oct. 1938)

REA sign (United States Department of Agriculture, N.d.)

"Electricity is a modern necessity of life and ought to be found in every village, every  home and every farm in every part of the United States. The dedication of this Rural Electrification Administration project in Georgia today is a symbol of the progress we are making—and we are not going to stop."

-President Franklin Roosevelt, Address at Barnesville, Georgia (FDR Presidential Library and Museum, 11 Aug. 1938)