Blessed Beyond Measure

A success story like no other. This collection traces the evolution of a small 80-bed hospital to become the largest medical complex in the region and one of the leading medical centers in the South. No small part of that remarkable success is due to the health system President & CEO James K. Elrod, the nation’s longest-tenured hospital administrator. 

James K. Elrod Biography and Photos


When 27-year old Jim Elrod was appointed CEO of what was then Willis-Knighton Memorial Hospital, he knew it was a big job and a lot of work. The words “big” and “work” didn’t scare him then or now.

Saving Willis-Knighton in 1965 was no easy task.  The bottom line was dismal with the aging hospital in undeclared bankruptcy.  Where others saw only problems, James K. Elrod saw opportunity.

The Air Force Captain moved quickly to improve morale and finances.  He gathered a team together many of whom were, like him military veterans.  He imbued everyone from the most senior doctor to newest worker with a sense of mission.  That mission was and continues to be summarized in the health system’s mission statement: “To continuously improve the health and well-being of the people we serve”
Willis-Knighton Memorial Hospital opened the first intensive care unit in the region.  Cash-generating services were brought back to the hospital from off-site clinics.  Young physicians were recruited personally to join the staff and remain loyal to the emerging hospital.  Despite years of tight budgets, long overdue investments in modern equipment and expansions were made. Leading by example, the young CEO refused to take a raise offered shortly after his arrival.  Links were forged with other area hospitals while an attitude of friendly competition was fostered.

Using the concept of satellite hospitals, Willis-Knight branched out into Southwest Shreveport (1983), Bossier City (1996) and Southeast Shreveport (1999).   At the same time, he expanded the north campus of Willis-Knighton Medical Center with the Progressive Care Center (1969), the Diagnostic and Surgical Building (1975), the Radial Tower (1979), the Steen-Hall Eye Institute, now Willis-Knighton Eye Institute (1988), the WK Cancer Center (2000), the Extended Care Center (2006) , the Proton Beam Therapy Center (2014), and the Heart and Vascular Institute expansion (2018).

Like the buildings that Jim Elrod has constructed over his half century and more at Willis-Knighton, his own life and work was built brick by brick on a firm foundation.  That foundation was as an undergraduate at Baylor University, a commissioned officer in the  U.S. Air Force at home and overseas, a graduate student in hospital administration at Washington University in St. Louis, and a resident-administrator at Baptist Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi.

Looking back over his continuing career at Willis-Knighton, Jim Elrod frequently gives thanks saying he and the Willis-Knighton Health System have been “blessed beyond measure.”

Symbolic of his long and distinguished career are the bricks in this exhibition from a 1970s renovation of Willis-Knighton Memorial Hospital. 

Location in Museum

Blessed Beyond Measure Exhibit and Talbot Museum Digital Archive

100 Years