Ross was born in Eupora, Mississippi, and obtained his business and law degrees at the University of Mississippi. After passing the bar exam in 1981, he clerked for Judge J. P. Coleman in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. He then entered the U.S. Navy as a JAG Corps Officer, where he served for three and a half years. Ross became the mayor of Eupora in 1997. In 2008, Ross received an appointment from then-President George W. Bush to serve as Senior Counsel to the Assistant Attorney General in the Environment and Natural Resource Division of the Justice Department.