It gave us new visions - Carolina Country

It gave us new visions

A farmer in Iredell County recalls the beginnings of Surry-Yadkin EMC

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Listen to some of Mr. Morrison’s interview.

This account of forming Davie EMC electric cooperative in the late 1930s is excerpted from an interview with Alvin Morrison, an African-American farmer in Iredell County, conducted in 1984 by Dusty Rhodes.

There was a division among the residents in Iredell County, as to what we should do — whether we should proceed to set up EMC co-ops for electrification or whether we should get a private or a public utility to come in. That would have been Duke Power.

A committee was appointed to contact the officials at Duke Power Company. They came back to the group that was meeting. They reported that Duke officials promised that they would run the line [along Old Mocksville Road] down to the South Yadkin River. And they asked them, “Will you serve the entire community?” They said, “No.” And the wealthy farmers living on the road, who could have gotten electric service, would not accept it. They said, “If you don’t serve the entire community, we won’t have it.”

When the vote was taken, the majority voted to get a cooperative to provide electric services for the community.

…It’s interesting when you think about how the philosophy of the rural cooperative grew to serve the ordinary family. If you had had a private utility — not that I’m necessarily against the private utilities — they expect a return on their investment. So I can understand how probably they thought that if they would make the kind of investment in our community, they could not have gotten a fair return. But the rural cooperative, being non-profit, enabled all of us to receive electricity in our homes.

…I worked actively to help to get people to sign up. There was another black man whose name was Mr. Willie Feimster. He was interested in it, and as well as I can recall probably he and I were the only black farmers in the community that attended the meetings. But we were interested in it, and we stuck with it until we got electricity… 

I just felt we were getting a service, we were getting a facility or a resource that would enable us, really, to live a happy home life. It just gave us new visions, new foresights into what we thought we could do, what we would be able to do, how it would save time, how it would enable us to read with more comfort…

When we were working to get the EMCs in this area, a businessman said to me, “What you’re doing is socialism.” And I replied, “If it is socialism, it is a good socialism, and I like it.”

…This rural cooperative movement I think confirms what I have believed personally for a long, long time: that, to succeed, if you can get a group of people working together cooperatively, you can almost achieve whatever you desire. That is very basic, and I think that is what has enabled the rural electric and telephone cooperatives, all cooperatives, to succeed as well as we have. The fine spirit of cooperation and the philosophy that working together, we can achieve our goals and objectives.

I’m thankful to God that he spared me to see as much progress made as has been made through the rural electric cooperatives. 

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