Electrification changed lives and transformed communities in the early-to-mid 20th century, according to Duane Highley, president and CEO of the Electric Cooperatives. Special to The Commercial


LITTLE ROCK — The Electric Cooperatives of Arkansas recently completed an oral history video in cooperation with the Clinton School of Public Service. The effort chronicled the state’s electric cooperatives’ efforts to provide electricity to those who otherwise wouldn’t have been served, according to a news release.

Graduate students from the Clinton School conducted the project, partnering with the Electric Cooperatives to collect the stories of people who remembered and were positively affected by rural electrification, according to the release.

“Electricity is an essential public service often taken for granted,” Duane Highley, president and chief executive officer of the Electric Cooperatives, said in the release. “For rural Arkansans in the early-to-mid 20th century, electrification changed their lives and transformed their communities.”

The Clinton School team included Amie Alexander, Paxton Richardson, Fiona O’Leary Sloan, Emily Smith, and Josh Snyder. Along with electric cooperative employees, the group conducted nearly 50 interviews during several months across rural Arkansas to document the history.

“The results of this project will educate generations to come about the importance of cooperatives and electrification,” said Lori L. Burrows, vice president and general counsel for the Electric Cooperatives, who led the project. “Capturing this oral history in a video format ensures that this important part of our state’s history is preserved in a meaningful and accessible manner.”

Highley added that as the state’s electric cooperatives continue to evolve and provide electricity and other services, it is important to remember the efforts of past generations.

“We work diligently to improve the quality of life for the present and future generations of electric cooperative consumers, just like the electric cooperative pioneers,” he said. “Our heritage of service is a testament to our pledge to continue our mission.”

“Arkansas’ 17 local electric cooperative distribution systems, statewide association and generation and transmission cooperatives serve approximately 500,000 members in 74 of the state’s 75 counties. The cooperatives are member-owned utilities established to provide reliable, affordable electric service to farms, homes, schools, churches, businesses and other establishments across the state in a responsible manner,” according to the release.

“The distribution cooperatives own and govern Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. (AECI), a service association for the electric cooperatives, as well as Arkansas Electric Cooperative Corporation, a generation and transmission cooperative, which provides wholesale power to the distribution cooperatives,” according to the release.

Video link: https://vimeo.com/user18626233/review/285147960/aced935b3a or https://youtu.be/bg3DzEP0G8k .