James Kershaw retires from Board after 36 years


James Kershaw, when he became Bastrop County Attorney. Photo by Sarah Beal

By Melissa Segrest

In 1982, the year James Kershaw joined Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative’s Board of Directors, the first mobile phone hit the market. It weighed 2 pounds andcost about $4,000.

Today, cell phone technology is lightweight, more affordable and has revolutionized communications. And in those 36 years, Kershaw helped lead changes and modernization advances at Bluebonnet that have transformed the business of providing electric power to a 3,800-square mile swath of Central Texas.

This month, Kershaw retires from his position as a Bluebonnet Board member representing Bastrop County.

“Jimmy Kershaw is one of the most humble, kind and giving men I’ve met, and it has been an  honor to serve with him for so many years,” Bluebonnet Board Chairman Ben Flencher said. “He continues to be an inspiration to me and those who have worked with him. Throughout his career, he has always hada smile and a positive attitude. He is an amazing man, and we will miss him on the Board.”

Kershaw was born in  Brenham in 1926, attending Alamo School there and then Stephen F. Austin High in Bryan. He achieved his goal of attending Texas A&M, but during  his third semester, he was drafted into the Navy. He served for three years as a code translator and transmitter on a patrol torpedo boat in watersoff the West Coast.

He returned to A&M to graduate in 1948, then earned a degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1951.

After two short stints with law firms, Kershaw was elected Bastrop County attorney. Four years later, he became district attorney for Bastrop, Burleson, Lee and Washington counties, a position he held from 1956 to 1972. He returned to practicing law until retiring in 2016 after a 62-year law career.

“James Kershaw is an amazing gentleman and an incredible board member,” said Roderick Emanuel, Bluebonnet board member. “He has made a differ ence thatwill serve the members of Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative for generations to come. It has been an honor to serve with him for so many years.”

A generous and civic-minded man, Kershaw was chairman of the Salvation Army of Bastrop and rang the fundraising bell during the holid ay season for 25years. He was chairman of the board and an attorney for the Aqua Water Supply Corporation, and a board member of Bastrop County FEMA.

Kershaw joined the board of the First National Bank of Bastrop in 1973 and was chairman for 25 years. Last year, he was named chairman emeritus. In February, he received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce. He and wife, Doris, are active in the Bastrop Museum and the county’s historical society. They are both chalice bearers at Calvary Episcopal Church of Bastrop.

Kershaw appreciates Bluebonnet’s employees. “The ladies and gentlemen who work there are the most enthusiastic folks,” he said. “There are so many people who want to work for Bluebonnet because employees there are happy and always trying to do a good job. I hope they treasure the opportunity they’ve been given, and I encourage
them to keep working by the principles of the cooperative.”

“Mr. Kershaw has had an enormous influence on Bluebonnet during his tenure on our board,” said Matt Bentke, Bluebonnet’s general manager.“He’s always been courteous and kind when interacting with our members and employees, but fierce when advocating on their behalf. We will certainly miss his presence on the board.”

To the members of Bluebonnet, Kershaw offered a “huge thank you” for electing him to serve on their board of directors for so many years.

On a recent, sunny spring day, sitting in his home office, he made a bold assertion. “In all of my years on the Bluebonnet board, I never received a complaint about the co-op. Ever!” That could be as much a testament to the work of gentlemanly James Kershaw as it is to satisfied members and the work of cooperative employees.

He and Doris look forward to more travel, but these days, his favorite pastime is the simple joy of working in the front yard of his Bastrop home. Kershaw remembers the days before electricity reached rural Central Texans, when family members and friends gathered on front porches to stay cool and wave to neighbors. Today, almost 80 years later, his Bastrop neighbors can expect to see the same friendly wave from Kershaw.

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