Gibson Electric Membership Corporation was formed in August of 1936. Before this time, electricity was enjoyed only by people who lived in cities large enough to support the infrastructure needed to supply power to their homes and businesses. Most rural residents, like those in Northwest Tennessee, could not secure electric service from existing electrical distributors at a price they could afford.
In 1935, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Rural Electrification Administration, making federal funds available to provide electric power to those people living in rural areas. At that time, most rural residents were farmers. Power companies showed little interest at first, forcing leaders of farm organizations to form nonprofit electric cooperatives. Member-owned rural electric cooperatives, like Gibson Electric Membership Corporation, were created all over the country.
Initially, Gibson EMC was formed in Gibson County and was called Gibson County Electric Membership Corp. Today, Gibson EMC serves about 39,000 member-owners over 3,500 miles of electric line in Carlisle, Crockett, Dyer, Fulton, Gibson, Graves, Haywood, Hickman, Lake, Madison, Obion and Weakley counties.
75+ Year Timeline
Thomas Alva Edison invents a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb.
Electricity is available in many of America's larger cities, but not rural areas.
In the mid 1880s, private power companies will not extend service to rural areas because the low customer density makes the venture less profitable.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs the Tennessee Valley Authority Act, and Gibson Electric Membership Corporation is formed.
The Tennessee Valley Authority Act helps to bring affordable electricity to rural areas. The Act creates the Tennessee Valley Authority to oversee the construction of dams to control flooding, improve navigation and create affordable electric power for the Tennessee Valley. Immediately afterwards, Congressman Gordon Browning (later governor of Tennessee) writes his good friend, H. E. Peek of Humboldt. Browning tells Peek about the Act and what it could mean to Gibson County. Peek contacts Tom Wingo, County Agent for Gibson County, and wheels of progress begin to turn. The Farm Bureau appoints a work committee and eventually Gibson County Electric Membership Corporation is formed.
Farmers take surveys to see who is interested in securing electric power.
With the county agent's office as headquarters and clearinghouse, the farmers begin the tedious job of taking surveys to see who is interested in securing electric power. These surveys are not easy since depression years have left most everyone in bad financial condition, and many farmers cannot see how they can pay a monthly electric bill.
President Roosevelt creates the Rural Electrification Administration.
The Rural Electrification Administration makes federal funds available for rural electric service.
Enough farmers have the vision to sign up for the required about of current to assure that TVA can build the lines.
Gibson County EMC borrows $25 from the Gibson County Farm Bureau and secures its original charter from the State of Tennessee. The charter names C.E. Farner, M.O. Zarecor, Denton Fly, H.E. Peek, A.B. Wade, and H.M. Lane as the first trustees.
Gibson County EMC buys the rights to sell electricity from Kentucky-Tennessee Light and Power Company. Obion Becomes a TVA customer.
Floyd Jones becomes Gibson County EMC's first manager and serves until 1958.
Mrs. Sammie D. Campbell, the first office employee, is cashier-bookkeeper, while Ernest (Mike) Wade is the first lineman. Some of the early trustees remember borrowing $300 from a local bank to pay these employees until farmers begin to pay their electric bills. TVA's construction crews build the first 105 miles of line, stretching diagonally across Gibson County from the southernmost tip west of Medina to the Churchton community near Gibson and Dyer county lines.
Board President Garner, Vice President Lawler, Secretary Zarecor and Peek sign the first contract with TVA for electric power and to repay the cost of the lines TVA has built.
The co-op holds its first Annual Members' Meeting at the old city hall on the Trenton court square.
Tom Wingo, the Gibson County agent who worked faithfully with farmers to help get the cooperative started, throws a switch in the south end of the county, and 86 of the first 163 members to sign up for electricity receive it for the first time. Children dance with glee in front of their well-lit homes that night and sing, "We've got lights, we've got lights!" Neighbors look at the brightly lit farms of those who are lucky enough to be on those first lines. They see shiny, new, clean refrigerators and ranges in the kitchen and abundance of clean running water. These things create a desire for this wonderful service by more people and speed up the work to bring lines to all the farm families of Gibson County.
Gibson County EMC begins borrowing monies from the REA to finance its continued growth.
By the beginning of World War II, the Cooperative is serving about 6,000 members in seven counties.
Gibson County EMC builds a new Customer Service Center on South Trenton Street in Rutherford.
With WWII and the scarcity of materials needed for defense, electric line building almost comes to a standstill.
With the end of the war, however, the Cooperative starts building as fast as is practical.
TVA's millionth customer is Gibson County EMC member Chester Williams of Gadsden.
Gibson County EMC receives national recognition for serving more consumers than any other electric cooperative in the United States.
On August 1, 1952, the co-op has 20,159 members.
Gibson County EMC builds a Customer Service Center on Nailling Drive in Union City.
Manager Floyd Jones announces that the co-op has received bids to build a new corporate office and Trenton Customer Service Center.
Lashlee-Rich Lumber Company, Humboldt, submits the low bid of 126,770. The office is still in use today.
According to "Marks on the Land, the Story of Obion," Gibson County EMC holds an open house in its new $62,000 Obion Customer Service Center.
J.C. Milton is named Gibson County EMC General Manager and serves until January 1, 1976
Through GEMC's early years, crews use their brute strength to perform the challenging job of building the physical electric system.
In the 60s, they receive much needed help in the form of the co-op's first bucket trucks. Their work still is physically demanding and dangerous, but bucket trucks make it easier and safer to perform work on energized lines. The all-electric home becomes a reality for many cooperative members. Nearly 15% of Gibson County EMC members enjoy all-electric heat in their homes, 75% have electric cooking, 50% eat food from an electric freezer and almost 55% enjoy the comforts of electric water heating.
Gibson County EMC opens its new 4,800-square-foot Tiptonville Customer Service Center. The building is still in use today.
Fifty cents of each dollar members pay Gibson County EMC for electricity goes to pay TVA for wholesale power cost.
Gibson County EMC's annual meeting is moved from a large tent to the new corporate office pavilion.
Miss Gibson County Electric Membership Corporation wins the Tennessee state title as well as the national title.
For many years, electric cooperatives host local pageants as part of their annual meetings. In 1970, Miss Gibson County Electric Membership Corporation, Janet Marie Porter, goes on to win the Tennessee state title and the national title of Miss Rural Electrification in Las Vegas, Nevada. She earns a $2,500 scholarship.
W.G. Dement is named Board President and serves until 1979.
According to "Marks on the Land, The Story of Obion County," Gibson County EMC serves five times as many members as it served in 1940, and those members use about 15 times more electricity than members used in 1940.
Jimmy Neal White is named General Manager and Executive Vice President; he serves until August 2003.
The Cooperative signs a lease-purchase agreement with TVA for the Alamo, Bells, Maury City and Kenton substations and makes the final payment in 1990.
Substation ownership helps reduce the co-op's cost of power.
Archie J. Cultra is named President of the Board and serves until 1982.
Joe D. Hall becomes Board President and serves until 1987.
Barry Smith operates Gibson County EMC's new Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) system.
SCADA allows the co-op to remotely control, operate and monitor its substations from its corporate location.
Gibson County EMC signs a lease-purchase agreement with TVA for transmission lines.
This is expected to save members more than $900,000 and improve system reliability.
Bobby Warren becomes Board President; he serves until 2003.
Gibson County Electric Membership Corporation changes its name to Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and adopts the National Rural Electric Membership Cooperative Logo.
An ice storm causes outages for about 14,000 of Gibson EMC's 30,000 members.
Most of the storm-related outages are in Gibson, Crockett and Madison counties, although there are scattered outages throughout Gibson EMC's service area.
Gibson EMC experiences another ice storm.
Of the co-op's 2,900-plus miles of electric line, 1,600 miles of line north of Madison, south Gibson and Crockett counties are affected by the ice storm. General Manager Jim White describes the damage as "the worst the area has experienced in at least 25 years."
Gibson EMC consolidates its Rutherford and Trenton offices into the Trenton location.
Gibson EMC consolidates its Obion and Union City operations and relocates to a new facility in Troy.
Powerful winds and severe lightning rip through West Tennessee leaving more than 3,600 of Gibson EMC's 33,000 members without power.
Crockett County and southern Gibson County are the hardest hit.
Mark Goode is elected Board Chairman.
Dan Rodamaker becomes President and CEO.
Gibson EMC begins implementing Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI).
AMI allows the co-op to remotely read a member's power usage through the power lines and fiber system.
One third of Gibson EMC's 34,000 members are without power and about 200 poles are down after a tornado strikes Gibson County.
Gibson EMC becomes a Touchstone Energy Cooperative, symbolic of its continued commitment to providing reliable, high-quality service at competitive prices.
This alliance helps Gibson EMC bring added value and benefits to its members.
Gibson EMC opens a new Alamo Customer Service Center and begins serving members in Medina's City Hall.
The installation of 130 miles of fiber optic cable in its eight-county service area marks a first for Gibson EMC. The fiber optic cable improves communications between its substations and customer service centers.
The Cooperative secures $1,840,000 in USDA Rural Economic Development Loans and Grants for workforce development and job creation in its service area.
The funds are used to help build the Crockett County Higher Education Center in Bells and to support the expansion of Williams Sausage Company in Union City.
A historic ice storm causes vast damage to Obion, Lake, Dyer and Gibson counties.
More than one-third of the Cooperative's members endured outages, some for as long as 12 days.
Gibson EMC launches an alternate payment system called Pay-Go
Pay-Go allows members to pay for electricity in advance. As they use electricity, their credit balance decreases.
A series of storms causes large-scale and recurring outages throughout Gibson EMC's service area.
The April 20 storm alone causes outages to more than 12,000 of the co-op's 35,000 members in Gibson, Crockett, Dyer, Obion, Lake and Madison counties.
Gibson Electric Membership Corporation merges with the former Hickman-Fulton Counties Rural Electric Cooperative Association adding members in four Kentucky counties: Hickman, Fulton, Carlisle and Graves.
Gibson Connect is Formed
Gibson EMC’s board of trustees votes to form a not-for-profit broadband subsidiary called Gibson Connect, LLC to make high-speed, fiber-based internet service available to eligible members.
Members Determine Gibson Connect Build
Gibson EMC launches join.gibsonconnect.com, a website through which members who are eligible can register to receive broadband service. Eligible members will guide the order of Gibson Connect’s broadband buildout.
Fiber Build Begins
Gibson EMC and Gibson Connect, LLC announce the start of its Phase I build out.