Rural electricity was a dream of rural homeowners in the Childress, Kirkland and Tell areas. This dream became a reality by the executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt that created the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) in 1935. As other rural communities in the nation were learning of the low-cost loans available and began working to electrify their rural farm homes, a committee of nine men in the local area came together to write the Articles of Incorporation of Gate City Electric Cooperative, Inc. Signing these articles on December 10, 1938, were: Leo Inman, Wilbur Williams, J.C. Jarrell, E.J. Groseclose, H.B. Smith, E.N. East, C.W. Alverson, F.P. Douglas and Roy Perkins.
These nine men would serve as the organizational committee of the Cooperative. At their first organizational meeting on December 17, 1938, held at 300 North Commerce Street in Childress, Leo Inman was elected chairman and H.C. Jarrell was chosen as secretary. This committee immediately began the work necessary to secure a loan from the REA. Nearly two years later, the membership gave authorization to borrow $1,500,000 from REA to finance the construction, acquisition and operation of electric generating, transmission, distribution and service.
The first REA note for $218,000 was signed July 9, 1940, to provide electric service to approximately 576 members in Childress, Cottle, Hall and Hardemen counties. The first contract for construction was recommended by Carl C. Cox Engineer and awarded to Richards and Mullinix of Oklahoma City, Okla., for $138,575.75 on August 5, 1940. Members would pay a membership fee of $5 and pay a bill of at least $2.45 per month regardless of the number of kilowatt-hours they used.
Two months into the building project, J.B. Morris resigned as project superintendent and R.A. Yarbrough was selected as the replacement. Yarbrough served as superintendent and later as cooperative manager until 1976. He was granted a brief leave in 1943 to be employed by the Childress Air Force Station Bombardier School. Upon his retirement in 1976, James C. Driver was hired to replace Yarbrough as manager and held that position until the point of merger with South Plains Electric Cooperative in 2000.
Business for the Cooperative was conducted from a building owned by Security Investments Company at 313 Commerce Street in Childress, until November 4, 1940, when a one-year lease contract with Bill Ross was signed for office space at the corner of Avenue D and 3rd Street NW for $40 per month. These facilities were used until property was purchased on September 22, 1947, from Panhandle Compress & Warehouse Company for $4,000. Two barrack buildings were purchased from War Assets Administration and used as warehouse and temporary office facilities until a permanent office building was built. The decision was made in April 1952 to employ an architect and take necessary action to secure a loan from the REA to build an office. An additional $100,000 was requested from REA to finance the construction of an office building, warehouse and garage facilities, and to purchase office furniture and equipment.
By February 1941, an additional $70,000 was borrowed to construct 70 miles of line to serve another 158 new applications. In March of that same year, a supplemental power contract with West Texas Utilities Company was established as a supplement to the original power contract dated September 18, 1940.
The first electric appliance purchased in February 1941. It was a one-can milk cooler used as a display model to encourage purchases by other members. Next was the purchase of an electric feed mill under the direction of the REA. It also was a display to encourage members to purchase feed mills. The first contract for appliances was granted to Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. Cooperative appliance and finance committees were appointed to set prices and determine credit to be extended to Cooperative members. The Cooperative later executed an educational campaign highlighting the many marvels of electric appliances in an effort to increase electric use by the membership.
Finally, by May 31, 1941, the first annual meeting of the growing membership was held in the district courtroom of the Childress City Courthouse, but those present in person an represented by proxy did not constitute at least 15 percent of the membership. The meeting was rescheduled for July 5, at which time the first board election was held. Those elected were: F.P. Douglas, Roy Perkins, C.W. Alverson, H.B. Smith, Tom Cannon, G.W. Jenkins, H.C. Jarrell, F.M. Kyle and Wilbur Williams. Officers elected were: Wilbur Williams, president; C.W. Alverson, vice president and H.C. Jarrell, secretary-treasurer. Total membership on July 5, 1941, was at 362. By 1950, the membership had grown to 1,472.
Gate City merged with South Plains Electric Cooperative in 2000.