The Great Builder
by Frank Stork
A man born in Missouri
nearly 87 years ago passed away at a hospital in Alexandria, Va., on June
Bob Partridge, a champion
of rural electrification, succumbed after fighting a long and courageous
battle against leukemia.
He was a builder of
good things. He had become known across this country and indeed around
the world as a man dedicated to the well-being of others. Partridge not
only worked to electrify rural America, he had gained informal recognition
as electrification personified.
His leadership style
was often compared to the quiet waters that run deep in a powerful and
fast-moving stream. He could bring diverse groups together for the common
good through firm but gentle persuasion. He could do that because of his
word that held great trust. He fought for the good of the least of us
because he knew that success would bring rewards to all of us.
His quiet but firm
determination to fight for what was right overcame the louder and sometimes
threatening challenges of those who would take an easier road.
Partridge speaks at the 1970 annual meeting of the National Rural
Electric Cooperative Association. The man known as "rural electrification
personified" died June 23.
Bob Partridge led
the nation's electric cooperatives as general manager of the National
Rural Electric Cooperative Association from 1968 to 1984. Prior to that,
he had served on the staff for seven years. His career at NRECA followed
a 15-year stint at the Rural Electrification Administration in Washington,
In the early years
of his career as an REA employee and later as NRECA's senior legislative
representative, Partridge built a solid reputation for honesty and candor
in our nations capital. He enjoyed considerable respect from all
who served in the United States Congress throughout his brilliant career.
Bob was commissioned
a second lieutenant in the Army Reserves in 1938 and was married that
same year to Georgiann Dickey. He saw action as a reconnaissance officer
and tank commander for three years in the South Pacific during World War
II. Among the many decorations he received were the Legion of Merit and
the Bronze Star. He was called back into action during the Korean Conflict
for a two-year stint and remained active in the Reserves until his retirement
in 1976 as a major general.
In 1983 the University
of Missouri-Columbia, his alma mater, conferred an honorary doctor of
science degree on him. Shortly after, the university created an endowed
professorship in agricultural economics named in his honor. The Robert
D. Partridge Chair was established in 1989. The department has come to
be recognized around the world for its leadership and innovation in cooperative
He was elected to
the Cooperative Hall of Fame as one whose contributions were truly
heroic. The Consumer Federation of America honored Partridge with
its first Phillip Hart Award recognizing the role he played in founding
the organization. The Republic of the Philippines honored him in 1983
with a special medal for providing electric service to rural parts of
the islands. His home county elected him to the Nodaway County Hall of
Fame in 1978.
There are millions
of people in our great country and around the world who may not have met
Bob Partridge. Nevertheless, these same people benefit from his lifetimes
work. The anonymity of Partridge, for a large part, is due to the fact
that he was truly a great leader who was quick to push praise and recognition
away from him and onto those he worked with.
He was a builder of
trust, a builder of coalitions, a builder of consensus and a builder of
economic expansion for rural America. In his memory, we dedicate this
issue of Rural Missouri to Bob Partridge, The Great Builder,
for his outstanding contributions to our state and nation during his lifetime
of good works.
Stork was executive
vice president of the Association of Missouri
Electric Cooperatives and a member of Three Rivers Electric Co-op.