'Eternal Light' proposed as Norris tribute

Friday, January 11, 2013
Mayor Dennis Berry, Cloyd Clark of the Norris Institute and Gene O. Morris of the George W. Norris Foundation discuss one of the possible sites for a tribute to Norris and the Rural Electrification Administration. Efforts began today to establish an electrical light display in McCook to honor the tremendous accomplishments of its chief advocate, McCook's most famous resident: U.S. Sen. George W. Norris (1861-1944). The three are on land between the Walmart Super Center and Plains Equipment Group in western McCook, one of four sites under consideration as the location for the REA light display. (Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)

McCOOK, Nebraska -- The George W. Norris Foundation today announced a nationwide campaign to raise funds for an REA Eternal Light Display in McCook, Nebraska.

The announcement was made at the Norris Planning Summit, which took place this morning at the Keystone Business Center In McCook.

In partnership with the Norris Institute, the Foundation has formed a 31-member National Steering Committee to present the idea to Rural Electrification organizations, publications and patrons throughout the United States.

"Because of the leadership of U.S. Senator George W. Norris in winning approval for the REA in 1935, we feel it is appropriate to locate the perpetual light display in the town that Sen. Norris called home during the last half of his life," said Cloyd Clark, the founder of the McCook-based Norris Institute.

As envisioned by the idea's originator, the REA Eternal Light Display will be a magnificent, always illuminated exhibition of electrical lights. The forever more shining lights' purpose will be to remind all who view them of the tremendous importance of Rural Electrification for America's farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

"Of all the happenings during the past two and a half centuries, none has had a greater impact on American agriculture than rural electrification," said the author of this article, who came up with the idea for the eternal light display on March 12, 2012.

Throughout the remainder of 2012, the idea was developed with the help of three current residents of McCook and three former McCookites. The idea developers include Ben Nelson, Nebraska's former U.S. Senator; Dr. Gene Budig, former President of Baseball's American League; Robert Douglass, a respected, retired architect; Cloyd Clark, a former judge who founded the Norris Institute; Dennis Berry, Mayor of McCook; and Gene O. Morris, vice chairman of the George W. Norris Foundation.

The National Steering Committee for the REA Eternal Light Display includes David Norris Rath, the great-grandson of Sen. Norris; Tom Vickers, former Nebraska State Senator; Jerda Thompson Vickers, former McCook mayor; Jon Morrison, son of Nebraska governor, Frank B. Morrison; Sharon McDonald Morrison, daughter-in-law of Gov. Morrison; Sharyn Bell Skiles, publisher of the McCook Daily Gazette; Mike Hendricks, instructor at McCook Community College; Don Harpst, retired publisher and nursing home administrator; Tilman Adair, director of Boulevard Presbyterian Church-Denver; Bill Longnecker, McCook jeweler and artisan; Mark Graff, chairman of McCook National Bank; J.T. Harris Jr., Secretary of John Harris Farms Inc.; Bob Harris, retired staff member with the Tennessee Valley Authority; Michelle Gill, interim vice president of McCook Community College; Marita Morris, leasing manager for Reagan Resources, Inc.; Michelle Morris Spieker, author of The Cherished Self; Don Moore, president of First Central Bank; Doug Skiles, Certified Public Accountant; Dale Dueland, farmer and community activist; Bruce McDowell, McCook City Councilman; Jay Harris, international projects coordinator for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay; Susan Harris Broomfield, marketing coordinator for Invest Nebraska Corporation; Bryant Brooks, McCook attorney at law; Allen Beermann, executive director of the Nebraska Press Association, plus the originating planning committee consisting of Gene O. Morris, George W. Norris Foundation; Cloyd Clark, Norris Institute; Dennis Berry, Mayor of McCook; Ben Nelson, former U.S. Senator and Nebraska Governor; Gene Budig, former university chancellor and President of the American League of Baseball; and Robert Douglass, a respected, retired architect.

Additional members will be named to the National Steering Committee in the weeks and months to come, said Morris and Clark. Because of the great distances between members, almost all of the work of the steering committee will be conducted through e-mail communications, the Norris spokesmen said. The exceptions will be fund-raising calls, which will be conducted nationally, and speaking engagements, which will be focused upon local, state and national rural electric cooperatives, the Tennessee Valley Authority region and the supporters of the Nebraska Unicameral system of government.

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