What Is The Co-op Difference? The first electric co-ops began in the 1930s in rural areas where power companies did not provide service. As early as 1934, Moultrie and Colquitt County were “thinking big” when the Moultrie Chamber of Commerce and Reed Bingham, an electrification dreamer, began “talking electricity” as the next step in rural development.
Because of the tremendous cost, nothing of significance occurred until President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order on May 11, 1935, creating the Rural Electrification Administration. Immediately following the presidential REA order, while H.G. Ray was president of the Chamber of Commerce, that body began communications with Senator Richard Russell and Second District Congressman E.E. Cox, and within a short time the trade organization combined its energies with the Colquitt County Board of Commissioners.
Mr. Bingham was employed to make surveys to determine the feasibility of rural electricity in the county and to map potential lines to the more densely populated areas. A preliminary Colquitt County Rural Electric Company was created in 1935 with county commissioners serving as directors. William Tillman and Cliff Jenkins served alternately as president.
The Colquitt County Rural Electric Company was chartered September 28, 1936, and the company was authorized to sign a contract for $275,000 in 10 separate notes to build 270 miles of line serving 1,040 customers. To meet REA requirements, the newly chartered company met October 23, 1936, signed the contract and elected permanent officers. Cliff Jenkins was named president; W.M. Tillman, vice president; and W.W. King, secretary-treasurer. John Suber and Van T. Crosby were named as directors.
On July 10, 1937, President Jenkins threw a switch that energized the first unit of the Colquitt County rural electric system – a 15-mile stretch from Moultrie to Berlin, with 36 customers turning on lights at 7:15 p.m. Some customers were said to have “burned every light in the house well past midnight.”
A few weeks after the Moultrie-Berlin line was energized, the line to Ellenton was completed. From that point to the present, there has been a steady development of the system, interrupted only by World War II.
Colquitt County Rural Electric Company was divorced from commissioner sponsorship in 1939, and directors were added from other counties being served. By 1940, the Cooperative had 2,573 customers and 1,165 miles of line. Despite the war, the system had grown to 3,988 customers and 1,183 miles of line by 1945.
The Colquitt County Rural Electric Company moved from downtown Moultrie into its headquarters building in 1950. A district office was opened in Valdosta during the latter part of 1969. By 1976, a district office had been opened in Tifton and branch offices were open in Adel, Nashville, and Quitman.
In October of 1976, by vote of the membership, the name of the cooperative was changed from Colquitt County Rural Electric Company to Colquitt Electric Membership Corporation.
View a video presentation highlighting the early rural electrification efforts of Colquitt EMC entitled “Bringing Power to the Countryside”. (View the video online)