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SRE Celebrates 80th Anniversary and FDR's Barnesville Visit

Southern Rivers Energy is celebrating its 80th Anniversary in conjunction with the 80th Anniversary of Franklin D. Roosevelt's historic speech at Summer's Field in Barnesville where he formally dedicated the cooperative, known then as Lamar EMC. At the time, Summer’s Field was part of Gordon Military College’s campus and FDR stood there before a crowd of more than 40,000 people to symbolically mark the birth of an effort to bring electricity to rural America. The president declared that the electrification of Lamar EMC was, "a symbol of the progress we are making and we are not going to stop!" Looking back, it is easy to see how rural electrification changed the country.

In honor of this historic event, Gordon College is hosting a celebration on Aug. 11 where they will also unveil the "Power to the People" exhibit that documents the journey of electrifying the countryside. The exhibit was originally created and displayed by UGA's Russell Library from 2005-2006. EMCs from all over the state of Georgia contributed to the exhibit and it was given to Georgia EMC, the statewide trade association serving Georgia’s 41 electric cooperatives, once the exhibit closed.

When discussions for the FDR Anniversary event began, Rhonda Toon, Vice President for Institutional Advancement at Gordon State College contacted Georgia EMC to collaborate on the project and soon learned that the “Power to the People” exhibit had been sitting in storage for more than 10 years.

“We had been hoping to find a fitting home for its permanent display one day and after talking with Rhonda, we agreed that a grand opening of the exhibit would coincide perfectly with the FDR commemoration event,” said Bill Verner, Senior Vice President at Georgia EMC. Thanks to Rhonda and Gordon State College, it will now be permanently displayed at Guillebeau Hall – the very building that housed the expo of newfangled electrical appliances back in 1938.

Gordon College intends for the exhibition to become a destination for elementary and middle school field trips from across the state to learn about American history and Georgia’s connection to the transformative impact of FDR’s Rural Electrification Act throughout rural America.

“Southern Rivers Energy is excited to a part of this special event and would like to thank Rhonda Toon and the team at Gordon State College for all their hard work in pulling this together,” said Michael McMillan, President/CEO of Southern Rivers Energy. “The fact that a group of farmers had the audacity to invite the president to help dedicate their electric cooperative, and actually succeeded, is exactly what the cooperative movement was all about.”

Southern Rivers Energy joins Gordon College in inviting the public to a special program Aug. 11 at 10 a.m. in the Fine Arts Auditorium to celebrate the electrification of rural America and the 80th Anniversary of FDR’s Barnesville speech. The “Power to the People” exhibit will be open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call Gordon College at 678-359-5739 with any questions.

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