Cochran founded City Garage in 1948 after serving the Army in World War II and continually operated his business for more than half a century adding Mercury, Lincoln and Ford dealerships as the company grew. As Cochran acquired dealerships, City Garage evolved into City Motors moving from an old coal yard on South Tennessee Street to its current showroom and service center at 352 N. Tennessee St. in Cartersville.
City Motors General Manager Mike Fobbus described working with Cochran as a pleasure, giving employee tenures as an example of the work environment and management style. Fobbus has worked at City Motors for 39 years and many others have logged more than 15 and 20 years with the company.
“It was a pleasure, always. He always took real good care of his employees. That’s why so many of us have been here for so long,” Fobbus said. “It’s just always been a good place to work — good benefits for his employees. ... We’re the only automotive dealership I know of that doesn’t have commissioned sales people, they’re salaried here. But of course everyone knows what’s expected of them. You never had to worry where you stand, you know what it takes to do your job and everyone has worked well together.”
In a 2010 article in The Daily Tribune News, Cochran summed up his business model in simple terms, putting an emphasis on honesty, loyalty and respect.
“Treat people right,” Cochran said. “You’ve got to be honest with your customers.”
Cochran became a widower to his first wife in 1996 and had since remarried. He leaves behind a daughter, son-in-law and two grandchildren.
Outside of his family, Cochran’s sole focus rested with his business. Fobbus remarked specifically on Cochran’s work habits and his seldom vacations.
“He was a workaholic. His only interest was working. His hobby was working. He loved the car business. If he took a vacation, which he rarely did — I can probably count on one hand how many trips I can remember him taking — he spent most of those trips looking at cars or checking out the automobile industry wherever he was,” Fobbus said.
But the passion he put into his work was equally matched in his commitment to the youth of Bartow County, faithfully serving the community through the inception and growth of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Bartow County. Chief Professional Officer Gordon Gilley oversees the daily operation of the local nonprofit and its two units in Cartersville and Adairsville. Since helping to form the organization, Cochran has never vacated his seat on the board and always remained active in his role.
“Ernest was one of our founding board members. Back in 1989 he and a group of concerned individuals saw the need for Boys & Girls Club services in Bartow County and through, really, Herculean efforts they not only raised the funds but laid the ground work to make sure the club and the movement was successful in Bartow County. And now for 22 years, the movement has been flourishing thanks in large part to Mr. Cochran. There are now two clubs serving in excess of 250 young people a day — during the summer, almost 400. So the vision of Mr. Cochran and others has really manifested into exactly what they saw would be much needed services,” Gilley said. “He has been very active. He provided constant advocacy and leadership. Ernest was one of those men who if I picked up the phone and said we had an issue with the roof, there would be people on the roof that afternoon.
“He was a good man and he will be missed.”
Visitation will be held today from 5 to 9 p.m. at Rowland Springs Baptist Church with a funeral service to be held Friday at 11 a.m. at the church. A full obituary can be found in today’s edition of The Daily Tribune News.