Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) called Rhoden probably the most unselfish community leader around, noting how Rhoden founded the Cobb Community Foundation.
“He’s given of his own resources, of his own money in so many different ways, but he’s also inspired others to do the same thing,” Isakson said. “You’ve heard of guilt trips? He can put a guilt trip on you in a New York minute if you need to make an investment in the community, so he’s a great guy.”
Chamber CEO David Connell described Rhoden as one of a handful of Cobb County’s godfathers who played a major role in the success the county is today.
“He has a heart of gold,” said Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. “When you see him, you think of this big individual who speaks little, but there’s no one he doesn’t want to help. There’s no one he doesn’t want to support, and behind the scenes he is constantly seeking to move others up. In life, people spend more energy, shall we say, in front of the microphone than behind the microphone. Jim’s the exact opposite.”
Tad Leithead, chairman of the Atlanta Regional Commission and Cumberland Community Improvement District, said he couldn’t think of anyone more deserving.
“He’s just run great businesses for 30 years, but at the same time, all the things that were said were true: he’s been a great community citizen, he served on any number of chamber committees and other committees, he’s been a mentor to people, he proactively serves to mentor people,” Leithead said. “His heart is in the right place. He really deserves the award as a community citizen.”
County Chairman Tim Lee called Rhoden a mentor.
“No matter what project you’re working on, no matter what is in your life, you go to Jim, and he’s a counselor, and he’s a friend, and he’s a great mentor for everything that makes Cobb County great, no matter what the issues are, you go to him, and his compass is pointed due north,” Lee said. “He has the best interest of Cobb County at heart. He has the best interest of the citizens of Cobb.”
Commitment to community
Rhoden, 73, has three children and seven grandchildren, with an eighth grandchild expected in late June.
“I’m frankly a little bit overwhelmed because the truth is Cobb County has given me and my family through its support of our businesses and our community activities far more than we could ever give to the county,” Rhoden said. “Truly, it’s been an incredibly great place to live and to raise a family, and it’s done far more for us than we’ve done for it, so I’m just overwhelmed, very pleased, very surprised, very appreciative of the recognition and the award.”
Rhoden attributes his commitment to community service to his late parents, Nelle and Lloyd Rhoden.
“My dad was the county agricultural agent for Leon County, which is Tallahassee, Fla., for 35 years, and he would go above and beyond all the time giving back and creating things to make a better community and took me with him often, particularly during the summer. I’d go to work with him quite regularly and just watched him,” Rhoden said. “My mother was very much supportive of him and those activities, so that just kind of came naturally.”
Futren Corporation manages The Georgian Club, Indian Hills Country Club, Woodland Hills Golf Club, and the National Alliance of Private Clubs.
Rhoden has served on the Cobb Chamber’s Board of Directors nearly every year since 1986, serving as chairman of Small Business, Education and Community Development committees. From 1993 to 1995, he served as the chairman of the Chamber’s Drugs Don’t Work program and established the goal of making Cobb a drug-free work place. He has also served in various capacities the East Cobb Rotary Club, the Metro Business Forum, the Civic League of Atlanta, Cobb Symphony Orchestra, Cobb Travel and Tourism and other organizations.
During his career, he has been presented with the East Cobb Citizen of the Year, Small Business Person of the Year, Mack Henderson Public Service Award and the Robert Lipson Award for Visionary Leadership.
Rhoden enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1958 and was commissioned after completion of Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning. He was honorably discharged after three years of service, with the rank of lieutenant, and served five years in the active reserves. He attended Florida State University, majoring in business administration.
This was the second year the Chamber has given the Cobb County Lifetime Achievement Award. In its inaugural year, the award was presented to Otis Brumby Jr., for his efforts defending the First Amendment rights of Cobb’s citizens and ensuring government transparency through his role as publisher of the Marietta Daily Journal.