A.H. Holbert

Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative, Northeast Missouri Electric, and Sho-Me Power Electric Inducted in 2014

 

A.H. Holbert sacrificed his own time and ultimately his health to promote cooperatives in Missouri and the nation. He was responsible for organizing at least four cooperatives in Missouri – the Lewistown and Ewing Consumers Cooperative, Lewis County Rural Electric Cooperative, Sho-Me Power Electric Cooperative and Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative. In each case he was the central to getting the cooperative established and its leader in growth. He went door to door to sign up members. He lobbied Congressional leaders for funds. He was instrumental in getting hydropower resources for Missouri and Oklahoma – resources that continue to benefit members. He was an early leader at the Missouri State Rural Electrification Association.

 

Although A.H. was the second manager at Lewis County Electric, he receives the credit for making the cooperative a success. Through his tireless efforts to sign up members, Lewis County Electric became the first electric cooperative in Missouri to energize a line. The project went from concept to providing electricity in less than one year. 

 

He served Lewis County as manager from 1937 until his untimely death in 1948. During this time, Missouri electric cooperatives quickly outgrew their supply of wholesale power, provided at the time by small municipal or investor-owned utilities, which had scant interest in seeing the cooperatives succeed. In 1942, due to the shortage of wholesale power, A.H. joined with other leaders at a meeting that led to the establishment of the first generation and transmission cooperative—intended to provide a cooperative source of wholesale power for the entire state. He served as the first president of Sho-Me Power. 

 

Even though Sho-Me would never provide a single benefit for his home cooperative, A.H. worked tirelessly to see it established. Serving without pay, he travelled the state speaking to local cooperatives to encourage support.  He convinced employees of the investor-owned utility Sho-Me purchased to remain on the job to ensure the lights stayed on during the transition. He fought against the private power company lobby that sought to destroy Sho-Me. He led the cooperative through six years of court battles, until the courts finally ruled in the cooperative’s favor.

 

When it became clear that Sho-Me could not meet the needs of electric cooperatives in Northeast Missouri, A.H. turned to a new regional approach and helped establish Northeast Missouri Electric Power Cooperative based in Palmyra – while continuing his work on behalf of Sho-Me.

 

No other state enjoys the benefits that are being provided by the three–tiered system (generation-transmission-distribution) that he envisioned and helped establish in Missouri.

 

Once, while on a trip on behalf of electric cooperatives, the train on which he was riding crashed, injuring him severely. A physician on the scene ordered him taken to the hospital. He declined: “Take the others, I have work to do.”
 

father of cooperatively-owned power generation; tireless devotion to serve his fellow citizens; visionary; pioneer in cooperative development; a true believer