MEMBER SPOTLIGHT: Jimmy Middleton of Perry
Posted on November 27th, 2023
BY DOUG BRANDON, First Electric Marketing & Development Representative, Peryville
Born in the 1930s, Jimmy Middleton of Perry was raised like most youngsters of that era — with an emphasis on hard work and being honest. After graduating high school, he served his country, cleared land and worked at a local cotton mill.
A common thread in his life was his father, James. James “Jim” Middleton was one of the first lineworkers for First Electric in the Perryville District, when it was formed from the existing Memphis Power and Ice Company. This small Power and Ice Company served a limited area in Perry with power during daylight hours via a generator.
After First Electric Cooperative began serving the area, their motto at that time, “Owned and Operated By The People It Serves” became their mission by adding lines into the darkness to spread electricity to the adjoining communities that had never been electrified. Jim was one of the original dedicated lineworkers, spending many days with crude tools to set the poles and lines to provide that service.
Jimmy also spent his high school summer working at the cooperative as a groundman, helping as well with the effort. Reflecting on that summer, Jimmy remembers the work being hard, and yet had a feeling of accomplishment as they were working on building line to the highest point in the area, Petit Jean Mountain.
Jimmy giggles recounting his father’s claim to fame is climbing a pole on a bridge crossing the Arkansas River that no one else would. Jimmy remembers how his father taught him to wire houses and to be safe around electricity. After 25 years of service to members of First Electric Cooperative, his father retired, passing the torch to another young lineworker to continue to improve the quality of life.
Jimmy and his wife, Vernelle, are very comfortable in their First Electric-served home that was built in 1909 and is most famously known for their yearly Christmas light display that is painstakingly done each year.