The Jefferson Davis Electric Cooperative (JDEC) had its beginning shortly after passage of the REA Act of 1936 which made loan funds available to any company, public body, or private cooperative interested in extending service to rural areas.
First, the rural group went to the local power company and requested service, urging them to borrow REA funds. Told by the power company that Rural Electrification would never be profitable or practical, they petitioned county agents, civic service organizations, and political leaders to hold mass meetings to organize a home-owned and operated non-profit cooperative to provide electric service for their needs.
Such prominent local men as Aaron B. Hartwell, Henry N. Hatch, Charles M. Davis, Harry E. Jester, William Hetzel, John J. Martin Jr., Ralph Potter, Joseph L. Tupper, and Charles J. Todd (original Board of Directors) were instrumental in organizing JDEC. This group, through its combined efforts received a charter under Louisiana law on September 17, 1941, but there was still a long way to go before kerosene lamps would go out in Southwest Louisiana.
The fledgling cooperative was little more than a dream, having no office, stationery, or equipment – just the determination of a few endowed with a pioneering spirit and a fighting heart. Rural Electrification Administration required a minimum of 3 members per mile of line to insure loan feasibility. Often the organizers paid their own expenses to solicit members using the offices of the County Agent or Farm Bureau.
Cameron Parish, feeling the same need for electricity, tried to form their own cooperative, but due to sparsely settled areas which would not financially support the large investment necessary to bring power to the area the people were advised to request affiliation with the JDEC which was already organized. They were readily accepted and have been a great asset in the development of the Cooperative.
The Cooperative Board in adding this additional territory appointed new Board Members representing Cameron Parish. Despite the critics and skeptics (and they are still around today), the first REA loan in the amount of $60,000 was received by the Cooperative on May 15, 1944, for purchase of Grant Utilities in Cameron and for construction of new lines in the Jeff Davis area. One of the most historic events in the history of Cameron followed in May 1944 when the first lines of the JDEC were energized.