Born and raised in Cleveland, Elrod comes from a faith-based community and family who believed in going out of their way to do good for others.
“My grandfather was Elmo Woodward, a Baptist preacher at Emmanuel Baptist Church here in Cleveland and Bradley County,” Elrod said. “He raised us to do the right thing, to always tell the truth and if we did wrong — always face the music. My dad taught us to say what we mean and mean what we say.
“We came from a Christian home with good upbringing in my opinion, with strong family values. Pedro Elrod was my other grandfather on my father’s side. Everyone in Cleveland who had anything to do with hook-ups, which had to do with pulling cars, would know Pedro. He was well known in the community.”
Elrod said he was raised primarily by his grandparents, whom he credits with instilling the simple values that have made him the man he is today.
“My grandmother, Callie Mae (Hughes) Davis, was the one who taught me to forgive, consider other people’s thoughts, stand up for something and not be judgmental. She was a great woman,” he said. “She was a midwife who took the wives of sailors to New York to visit their husbands during WWII. She did it out of the goodness of her heart.”
With both sides of his family having outstanding names in the community, Elrod and his older sister Tammy, younger brother Jody and younger sister Cathy had much to live up to. From youth to adulthood, Elrod, 44, said he has lived a blessed life thanks to his spiritual upbringing.
“I’ll put it this way. I’ve been laid off from work — I’ve lost jobs. But from the high school I went to — Bradley Central — we had a winning football team the years that I played. We were blessed without any major injuries or complications to any teams we played. All of our friends were successful in life and business.
“I went to the U.S. Air force and was always successful. From the military to getting jobs, the Lord has always provided for me, and my faith has carried me through. I’ve never ever been without. That’s why I’m so strong on faith.
“I’ve lived a blessed life everywhere I’ve gone. It’s a work in progress, of course. As with anything, you have your daily struggles. You can’t make everyone happy. So you try to do the best you can. To sleep at night I keep a straight face and choose to be honest. I handle people the way I want to be handled.”
As the Internet manager handling Internet sales at Gray Epperson Mazda Hyundai, Elrod, who has been in the automotive industry for 13 years, said he is really in “the people business” and enjoys being of assistance to his fellow Clevelanders.
“I sell cars but people are what’s important to me. I look forward to giving back to the community in a bigger and better way. I look forward to that.”
The soft-spoken, Southern gentleman said he believes businesses in Cleveland are successful because of people’s relationships with God and the faith they have.
“I think we’re a little different here,” he said. “When you’ve got a leg down or a hand down you’re not held down here. You’re lifted up. My motto is, ‘We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.’ We don’t have all the answers but we can find strength in numbers. Overall, anything is doable. I believe honesty and integrity are definite strengths instead of weaknesses.”
As far as nice guys finishing last, the husband and father of three said, “I believe (if you’re a person of faith) you’re blessed and how well you finish is really up to you. You only lose if you fail to compete. As long as you work at it you won’t lose. Hard work merits success. Nobody ever won who quit.”
Elrod said he believes success can best be defined by the life of Jesus Christ, who set the perfect example of success.
“Jesus completed God’s work to the fullest extent. That’s the best standard of success to me,” Elrod said. “We’re only successful through grace and through the blessings God provides. I think success is different things to different people.
“But to me, success means being obedient to God. We may not make all the right decisions in life, but if they are decisions we can live with and hold our heads up — we’re successful to an extent.”
Being able to keep his life simple and take it in stride regardless of the challenge is something anyone can choose to do if they truly believe and make it a matter of prayer, according to Elrod.
“It’s never too late for anyone to start being honest or to correct any wrongs done. It’s a choice. People decide to or they don’t. I just choose to.”
When all is said and done, Elrod stated his hope is that people will see him as “a good father, a good friend and a good Christian. Then where I finish in life is up to God.”