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Bulloch County Black History Month 2024
The Rawls family's love of cars
Rawls Family
Three generations of the Rawls family: left to right, Gordon "Junior" Rawls, Jr., Gordon Rawls, Sr. and Sherrodric Rawls.

When your car suddenly looks like Humpty Dumpty fell down, don’t fret, because there is a car repair shop that can put everything back together again. In fact, they have been performing car makeovers for over three generations. Meet Gordon Rawls, Sr., of Rawls Auto Paint & Body Works, his son Junior Rawls, and grandson Sherrodric, your friendly neighborhood car surgeons.

Gordon Rawls is the owner and founder of the family business. His inspiration was inside himself. He says, “Cars have always interested me” and his childhood dream was always “to open up my own shop.” Well, his dream came true!  In 1987, he opened up his own automotive business as a result of “long hours and hard work,” remarks Rawls.  

Over the years, thousands of automobiles have been serviced at this shop.   

He opened up his family business at 117 Cone Street in Statesboro and it has been their only location.  Rawls possesses a passion for cars that he seemingly inherited from his own father Roscoe Rawls, Sr., a Bulloch County farmer who “worked on cars” and who without realizing it transferred his own knowledge and love of cars down to his young son Gordon, now, a second-generation car lover. 

When asked if he remembers the very first car that he owned, Rawls, with sheer delight, responded that it was a “1972 Ford Fairlane Sports Coupe”!  

As a business owner, Rawls has kept the family business momentum going.  Now in his 70s, he is still active. Even though his health has slowed him down a bit, he still sits at his desk ready to help customers as they enter.  His shop provides three basic services: automotive body repair, which includes interior repair and maintenance; custom painting for cars and motorcycles, and auto mechanical repairing. With a 4.1 out of 5 rating, things are not subject to change soon.

He was not alone as he built up his business. His late wife Arlinda Denson Rawls, the true love of his life, worked alongside her husband for 47 years, acting as secretary, bookkeeper and errand runner.  

Not only was she his business partner, “She gave me moral support and kept me on the right track,” Rawls said. 

They married on August 23, 1969, and she bore him three children. He fixed the cars; she fixed the bottles and did the paperwork. However, their precious time together extended beyond the workplace. On weekends, they transported Rawls’s race car to an out-of-town car racing track. She loved to go racing just as much as he did, and now both son and grandson enjoy it.  What a family tradition!   

Born on December 23 and passing away on December 27 at the age of 64, Ms. Arlinda, mounted on the wall and beautifully adorned in blue, still watches over the family business.

As fathers do, Rawls passed down his automotive skills to his only son, Gordon Rawls, Jr., called “Junior.” Junior has been working alongside his dad learning the ropes since he was 15. With pride, he says that he learned everything that he knows from his dad, and he most admires how he and his mom “kept the business open for 36 years and counting.” When asked why he wants to remain in the family business, he, too, admits to his “love for cars,” adding that “he loves working on them.”  

For the record, his first car was a 1990 Camaro.  

The first skill that he learned from his dad was how to “sand and tape.” However, Junior can now do it all, and he is currently the manager. He has worked alongside his father for 36 years, but in 2023, he officially took over, lessening his father’s workload, but not his own. He states that nowadays he has “more responsibilities,” but he loves “not having to be on someone else’s clock.” He had beforehand worked at Gulfstream for 16 years.  

But never fear; more help is here—grandson Sherrodric Rawls.  Inspired by his grandfather’s ability to fulfill his dream by building his own business from the ground up, he says that it is “only right to follow suit and keep the legacy alive.” 

According to Junior Rawls, Sherrodric’s dad, the family plan is for his father Gordon and himself to remain in the family business “until his son takes over.

Keeping with the Rawls’s tradition, automotive shop skills are basically passed down during what Sherrodric calls “on the spot training on a daily basis.”  He started helping his dad at age 12, which is three years earlier than when Junior, now 54, started learning the trade from his dad Gordon.  You are never too young to learn, it seems.  As a fourth-generation car lover, this 28-year-old Rawls still loves spending quality time with his father while learning more about the family business.  

According to Sherrodric, the first skill that his father taught him was how to “sand down a vehicle” and what to use to do it.  Currently, he is most proficient in repairing front and rear damages. However, he desires more professional training in car painting. Today, he prepares cars to be painted; tomorrow, he will paint them himself. Sherrodric feels that it will probably take him another 3-5 years to learn all that his dad has to teach him, while envisioning spending more than 20 more years working alongside him.  

When asked how he intends to improve the business for the future, he says that he envisions a larger “social media presence, more marketing strategies, and more community event involvement.”  

Without a vision, businesses perish, but not this one.  Sherrodric is on it!  Choosing to continue the Rawls’s legacy, he gives his grandfather Gordon Rawls much credit: “He motivated, criticized, and encouraged me to be better at what I do.”  

With this family business, perfection is part of the plan. Moreover, in reference to his own father, he says that he admires his father’s “drive, determination, and perseverance.” 

Oh, and if you want to know what Sherrodric’s first car was, drive by and ask, but expect him to be busy.

From great-grandfather Roscoe to grandfather Gordon to father Junior down to grandson Sherrodric, the Rawls list of car lovers who specialize in body repairing, painting, restoring, along with racing cars, is phenomenal.  It is surely in their genes!  

United, they all agree that the name, the location, the quality workmanship, and their reputation for “great body work” will all remain the same, hopefully, for more generations to come.

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