This National Cooperative Month, we’re celebrating by sharing Grant Gillum’s passion for PEC’s 85 years of history. Remember, PEC is a nonprofit cooperative, and as a member, you’re more than just a customer — you’re an owner of the cooperative with unique privileges and rights. The cooperative is steered by our board of directors, elected by and made up of members like you. And we give back, because we know the strength of our cooperative lies in the strength of our communities.
Since he was a youngster, Dripping Springs High School student Grant Gillum has been fascinated with history. His curiosity for the past blossomed into something more in seventh grade, when he began participating in National History Day contests. In his third year, Gillum won second place in the national competition with a project titled Power for the People: How LBJ Tamed the Frontiers of the Texas Hill Country Electrification.
“When I found out that Lyndon B. Johnson brought power to the people of the Texas Hill Country and helped create PEC as a young congressman, I was hooked,” Gillum said. “I love learning about why people did things and the impact of their actions — both then and in the future.”
Gillum’s project tells the story of how then-Congressman LBJ worked alongside locals like rancher E. Babe Smith to bring electricity to a region cut off from the progress power had brought to America’s more urban areas. Read some highlights straight from Gillum’s award-winning work, and see the full project online at pec.coop/gillum.
Excerpts from Power for the People
- While Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal included the Rural Electrification Administration (REA), few know that the REA excluded large parts of the nation.
- Larger than Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Connecticut combined, the Texas Hill Country was an isolated frontier settlement.
- It would take a young Lyndon B. Johnson — two decades before his presidency — and his unique grasp of Hill Country people, places, and ideas to tame this lesser-known frontier.
- With REA funding, PEC began electrifying the Hill Country in 1939 using Lower Colorado River Authority power. The Hill Country’s limestone and unpredictable climate made installation difficult but also created many New Deal jobs.
- “Of all the things I have ever done, nothing has given me as much satisfaction as bringing power to the Hill Country of Texas.” – Lyndon B. Johnson