By Lauralee Wilcox McCool

Cody Kerr’s earliest memories are of begging his mother not to leave. Today, Cody is a confident, quiet, young man on the eve of his high school graduation. He has found success in business competitions, but he is marked by an event that occurred just before he started kindergarten.



Cody was just 4 years old when his mother, Rebecca Ethridge, married Kenneth Taylor. He considers the new father figure anything but loving, explaining he physically abused Rebecca and Cody. “I understood what was happening,” Cody said. “I was an advanced 4-year-old.”

On Feb. 9, 1996, Rebecca had a meeting with an attorney to discuss divorce proceedings.

Rebecca’s parents, Frank and Florence Ethridge stayed with 5-year-old Cody and his 25-month-old sister, Courtney.  Cody remembers it was a warm day with a cold front moving in.

He recalls his mother closing the window and turning on the heater. Cody stood on the edge of the carport and begged his mother not to go. “She promised she would be right back,” he said.

His next memory is of his worried grandfather saying that Rebecca should have returned.

Taylor “had knocked her out and driven to Oppelo (Conway County),” Cody said. Taylor then pushed Rebecca out of the truck while it was moving. She suffered severe head trauma and died en route to the hospital.

That fall Cody started kindergarten in the Greenbrier School District and Taylor went on trial. He was sentenced to 30 years in prison and will be eligible for parole in eight years.

Cody describes the following years as tough. “Elementary kids are mean,” he said. “People would say something and it would get me down.”

Cody found a support system in his grandparents. He is planning to change his surname to Ethridge when he turns 18 in honor of the grandparents who raised him.

“I love my grandma,” he said. “She is absolutely the most beautiful person that I know.

“She’s the life of the party. My friends all want to come over to my house.”

Frank Ethridge died in 2002 after a battle with lung and throat cancer. Cody says his grandfather was his only father figure.

Cody found support at Greenbrier schools as well. “All of the counselors at Greenbrier have been really good,” he said.
Cody will attend the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton this fall on an academic scholarship. Following two years at UACCM, he plans to pursue a bachelor of business administration degree at the University of Central Arkansas.

His love for the business world began with an agricultural business class. He followed the class with some agriculture business competitions in Future Farmers of America. Cody received high individual honors in the tri-county competition, second high individual in district and ninth high individual in the state.

In addition, Cody was fifth in state in a Future Business Leaders of America competition. He will graduate high school with a “completer” in desktop publishing, meaning he fulfilled a set curriculum.

Cody is leaning toward studying accounting in college because of his love for his high school accounting class.
While Cody is eager to start college and plan for a career, he has mixed feelings about leaving the school he has attended for 13 years and his lifelong friends. But he also knows everything will be fine.

“I’ve faced the hardest challenge I can face and got through it,” Cody explained. “I don’t let anything slow me down. I tell myself that it made me a better person."