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In 1939, Kaufman County Electric Co-op had 100 miles of electric lines, including one stretching east toward Van Zandt County. As World War II began to take shape, however, plans for expansion would have to wait as metals, fuel and even tires for service trucks would be rationed and preserved for the fight overseas.
It was a similar situation for M.L. Brewer. After graduating from Canton High School in 1939, his plans for a career as a vocational agriculture teacher had to wait as he joined the U.S. Navy and repaired airplanes.
“It was three years, three months and nine days in the Navy,” Brewer said. “When I first went in, it was the first time I had been away from home, so I was so lonesome I cried a time or two. Someone had told me that if I was in six months it would be like home, and sure enough, that was true. It was thousands and thousands of sailors, and after a while I was never homesick again.”
After his time in the Navy, Brewer went back to school with a passion for learning and teaching that would fuel a lifetime in education.
“I went to Henderson County Junior College, that is now TVCC, then Sam Houston to finish my Bachelor’s,” he said. “Over my lifetime though I went to five different colleges and they say I’ve had enough school for a doctorate. I had an ag teacher in high school that made me want to be a teacher, and I think that is the best job in the world.”
Brewer retired as principal of his alma mater in 1977, but all that time in the classroom gave him some timeless wisdom that still resonates in a world of technology and instant access to information.
“The first thing is, if they are interested in something they will automatically learn, so you have to keep them interested,” he said. “And as a parent, give them praise any chance you can, because they will want to satisfy you and learn.”
While he was dedicated to his work in the classroom, Brewer was also hard at work with other passions. He raised cattle, developed some ranch land and spent a lot of time on a bulldozer.
It was the land-clearing business that connected him to the co-op, as he worked to clear transmission line paths and substation locations. He knew firsthand the benefits of bringing reliable electricity to the countryside.
“When the war was over and they started working on it again, well, I had a family by then but it was real important,” Brewer said. “When I was growing up, there wasn’t even a coolerator [ice box], and we would put the milk down in the well. Mom and dad would do that because you had to be careful not to spill any into the well.”
Now, Brewer has an even closer connection to TVEC. His grandson Mack Brewer is a journeyman lineman based in the TVEC Athens office.
At 98, life may have slowed down a bit, but Brewer seems to have no intention of sitting still for too long. Fishing trips at his hand-built cabin in Colorado and errands around his property are enough to keep him busy. “I stay busy and I go to the farm every day,” he said. “I’m not able to do much, but I do something. Right now I’m wanting to cut some hay on it, but Mack wants to put cows on it so I don’t know who will win.”