Attorney E. Warren Matthews, who has served for 33 years as general counsel for Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative, is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the Virginia, Maryland & Delaware Association of Electric Cooperatives.
The award was established in 1993 by the VMD Association to recognize individuals who have served an Association member system in an outstanding manner for an extended length of time. Cooperative directors, employees and individuals in affiliated organizations may be submitted for consideration for the award that is presented annually.
Matthews was nominated for this honor, unbeknown to him, by Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative soon after he retired from his service as MEC’s attorney on February 19, 2020. The award was presented to him on July 27 as part of the VMD Association’s 76th Annual Meeting, which was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
For decades, Matthews has served as a strong voice at the Association level for all utility-related legal matters and a go-to for cooperative law. Additionally, he provided sound counsel and was a critical player in the establishment of EMPOWER Broadband, which now provides internet service to Southside Virginia.
A native of Brunswick County, Va., Matthews received a B.A. in history from Randolph-Macon College in 1962 and a law degree from the University of Richmond in 1966 before embarking on a successful legal career.
He returned to Southside Virginia to practice law with the late Frank D. Harris, a former South Hill mayor and Mecklenburg County Commonwealth’s Attorney. The firm continues to this day as Harris, Matthews, Crowder, P.C. In 2016 he was recognized for completion of more than 50 years of service as a member of the Bar of the Commonwealth of Virginia.
“Every great organization is built on a foundation of pillars, and most of those pillars represent individuals who made invaluable contributions to that organization. Underneath Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative is a pillar with Warren Matthews’ name on it,” states John C. Lee, Jr., president and CEO of MEC and EMPOWER Broadband, headquartered in Chase City.
MEC Chairman of the Board David J. Jones comments, “What always impressed me the most about Warren was his sincere and absolute dedication to both the cooperative and the cooperative business model. Everything he did for our cooperative was driven by his passion to always do what was in the best interest of our membership.”
Richard G. Johnstone Jr., president and CEO of the VMD Association, says Matthews represents “a consummate ‘lawyer’s lawyer’ and a true Virginia Gentleman, whose courtly demeanor, impeccable politeness, quiet good humor, thoughtful advice and cooperative spirit have made him both a valued counsel to Mecklenburg Electric Cooperative and a valuable resource to all systems within this Association.”
Matthews believes in the importance of community involvement and has been a strong leader serving more than 30 years as general counsel for Community Memorial Hospital (now VCU Health Community Memorial Hospital) in South Hill, Va. He is also a director of Carter Bank and Trust in Martinsville and serves on the South Hill Industrial Development Authority.