AACHM Oral History: George Goodman
When: February 8, 2022
George D. Goodman was born in 1940 and grew up in Ypsilanti. His father George worked at the Ford River Rouge plant and his mother Thelma owned and operated Goodman’s Fashion Center on Harriet Street. After graduating from Roosevelt School and Eastern Michigan University, he served as a U.S. Army officer in Germany for 5 years. Goodman is best known for being the mayor of Ypsilanti from 1972 to 1982. He was also director of the University of Michigan Opportunity Program and the Michigan Municipal League. He and his wife Judith have been married for sixty years, and they have two sons.
- [00:00:15] JOYCE HUNTER: [MUSIC] So I'm going to ask you some simple demographic questions. These questions may jog your memories, but please keep your answers brief and to the point for now. We can go into more details later in the interview. Please say and spell your name.
- [00:00:33] GEORGE GOODMAN: My name is George Goodman. G-E-O-R-G-E first name. Last name, G-O-O-D-M-A-N. Middle initial is D, stands for Donald.
- [00:00:45] JOYCE HUNTER: What is your date of birth including the year?
- [00:00:48] GEORGE GOODMAN: September the 13th, 1940.
- [00:00:53] JOYCE HUNTER: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:00:59] GEORGE GOODMAN: African American.
- [00:01:02] JOYCE HUNTER: What is your religion, if any?
- [00:01:06] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, I grew up in the AME Church, but at the moment, I guess I am one of the backsliders. I don't have a regular church home right now.
- [00:01:20] JOYCE HUNTER: Which AME did you grow up in?
- [00:01:24] GEORGE GOODMAN: Brown Chapel in Ypsilanti.
- [00:01:29] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:01:36] GEORGE GOODMAN: I have a Masters of Arts degree.
- [00:01:42] JOYCE HUNTER: Did you attend any additional school or formal career training beyond that?
- [00:01:49] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, I've been to several various programs but they were not additional degrees as such.
- [00:02:00] JOYCE HUNTER: What is your marital status?
- [00:02:03] GEORGE GOODMAN: I'm married. We will be married for 60 years this coming August.
- [00:02:11] JOYCE HUNTER: Congratulations. Long time. [LAUGHTER] How many children do you have?
- [00:02:18] GEORGE GOODMAN: We have two grown sons.
- [00:02:24] JOYCE HUNTER: How many siblings do you have?
- [00:02:28] JOYCE HUNTER: None. I'm an only child.
- [00:02:30] JOYCE HUNTER: Oh, an only child. [LAUGHTER] Okay. There's different things people say about only children. Have you heard any of those?
- [00:02:38] GEORGE GOODMAN: [LAUGHTER] Yes. Indeed.
- [00:02:44] JOYCE HUNTER: What was your primary occupation?
- [00:02:49] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, let's see. My primary occupation was probably the last position that I had, which was Executive Director of the Michigan Municipal League. Prior to that, however, I spent nearly 15 years at the University of Michigan.
- [00:03:11] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. At the University of Michigan, what did you do?
- [00:03:15] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, for the first five years I was there, I was Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions. Then for the last nearly 10 years, I was director of the Opportunity Program at the University.
- [00:03:33] JOYCE HUNTER: What age or if, did you retire?
- [00:03:40] GEORGE GOODMAN: You said what age?
- [00:03:41] JOYCE HUNTER: Right. Or if you've retired?
- [00:03:45] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, I retired in 2005, and I was either 65 or 66, I think.
- [00:03:57] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. Now we're going to go into Part 2, which is memories of childhood and youth. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:04:08] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, we were very close-knit family. Being an only child, obviously, I got quite a bit of attention since I didn't have to compete with siblings. But I had a wonderful childhood. I have no regrets. Had wonderful parents. We lived in a very nice neighborhood, knew a lot of people in the neighborhood. We had a lot of friends in my neighborhood. We had opportunities to play together quite a bit, so I had a really nice childhood.
- [00:04:52] JOYCE HUNTER: What sort of work did your parents do?
- [00:04:56] GEORGE GOODMAN: My father worked for the Ford Motor Company at the River Rouge plant. My mother owned and operated a store in Ypsilanti called Goodman's Fashion Center. It was a store that had clothing for women. She also had a beauty parlor for women.
- [00:05:24] JOYCE HUNTER: So she was an entrepreneur?
- [00:05:26] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes, indeed, my dad used to say that he never really thought that they made any money because she gave away more than she ever brought in, I think. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:05:40] JOYCE HUNTER: I was thinking you're going to say she shopped in her own shop. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:05:45] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, she did that too. [LAUGHTER].
- [00:05:50] JOYCE HUNTER: What are some of your earliest memories as a child?
- [00:05:57] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, I think some of my earliest memories was with my grandfather, when I was really young, my grandfather actually lived with us. That was my dad's dad. My grandfather is actually the person that taught me how to ride a bike. I've always remembered that all these years.
- [00:06:21] JOYCE HUNTER: About how old were you at that time when he taught you how to learn to ride a bike?
- [00:06:25] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, I think I was probably five or six years old, something like that. But we were very close. He passed away, I think in about 1949. But because I was an only child and he lived with us, we just hung out a lot together. He was just fun to be around.
- [00:06:56] JOYCE HUNTER: I can tell from listening to you talk about him that it was very special.
- [00:07:01] GEORGE GOODMAN: Indeed.
- [00:07:03] JOYCE HUNTER: Were there any special days, events or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:07:12] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, in the summer months, my parents usually had some sort of lawn party, maybe once or twice a summer. She would invite a lot of her friends, both from the church and various club organizations that she was involved in. I can remember just basically being the prep person for those activities. I was responsible for getting everything set up, chairs and tables and so forth, and just interacting with a lot of people that we knew back in that day.
- [00:07:58] JOYCE HUNTER: I want to go back just for a minute. When you mentioned I asked you about your primary occupation. What about your involvement in politics?
- [00:08:08] GEORGE GOODMAN: Oh, yes. I was definitely involved in politics. I was elected mayor of Ypsilanti. Well, I was elected to the city council first in 1970. Then two years later I was elected mayor by the council, then in 1973, they changed the city charter which required the mayor to run at-large so I ran at-large in 1973 and I was mayor for a little over 10 years in Ypsilanti, from '73-'83, which is the year that I took the position at the Michigan Municipal League.
- [00:08:57] JOYCE HUNTER: So you had a long tenure as mayor?
- [00:09:01] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes. Well, back then the tenure was two-year terms so it seemed like just about you were running every year because two years goes by pretty quickly.
- [00:09:17] JOYCE HUNTER: Tell me a little bit about that experience as being mayor.
- [00:09:22] GEORGE GOODMAN: It was an interesting experience. Having grown up in the community, there were a lot of people that I had known, at least I knew their parents and in some instances, many of their grandparents, in terms of the cohort group that I was with. There were an awful lot of people that I knew in the community. Those were the days when we had sufficient federal dollars coming in. We had federal revenue sharing which allowed us to qualify for funds to do things. We were able to build new bridges, we built the senior citizen housing complex. We built the first outdoor public swimming pool. Those were just really exciting days. Then once revenue sharing dried up, it got more and more difficult. Revenue sources were not as available, but the demands in terms of what we needed in order to keep the community moving forward, was always a struggle. Road problems as usual, when you live in a community where you have the frost line in the wintertime it was just a problem with potholes and despite our best efforts, keeping the roads paved and not filled with ruts and so forth was just an ongoing problem. Of course, as you know, that's a problem even today. Being a local official, it's a difficult position. Everybody knows who you are, your name is in the phone book, people had problems they would call you all different times of day and night. But I enjoyed it, I studied political science in college so I felt I was prepared, certainly, to handle that responsibility and I certainly don't have any regrets at all. It was very challenging and fun experience as part of my life.
- [00:12:02] JOYCE HUNTER: So with the things that you mentioned, when you had the funds, you accomplished a lot, the different buildings and et cetera that you did, which is great. Tell me about--were you the first Black mayor of Ypsilanti?
- [00:12:18] GEORGE GOODMAN: No, actually, I was the second Black mayor. The first Black mayor in Ypsilanti was John Burton. John Burton was the first Black mayor. I was the first Black mayor that was elected by the citizens. John Burton was elected during the time when the mayor was elected by council. I must say that [NOISE] he was on the City Council for probably, I don't know exactly the length of time, but somewhere between 20-30 years and he ended up being often the top vote getter during the election. But at that time he was never selected to be mayor by the other members of the council until very late in his tenure. He'd been on council for, as I say, probably over 20 years when the city council finally decided that they were going to elect him mayor.
- [00:13:30] JOYCE HUNTER: Was that based on that he was a person of color? Do you know?
- [00:13:37] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, undoubtedly, that's my view.
- [00:13:40] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. I went back to your career because I wanted you to talk about your time as mayor, but I'm going to go back now to family questions. I want to ask you about how were holidays traditionally celebrated in your family?
- [00:14:04] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, they were probably celebrated like in many families. Certainly the large holidays were Thanksgiving and Christmastime. During the summertime we all looked forward to the Fourth of July being able to have some sort of a family gathering. My parents had relatives that lived in the Detroit area and quite often [NOISE] they would have that family out to visit with us on the holidays. It was always good to have them come and get together. But we were pretty traditional in the sense of celebrating most of those type of holidays as did a lot of our neighbors.
- [00:15:10] JOYCE HUNTER: So when people came to visit, with you being an only child, and they brought children, that must have been great or exciting for you?
- [00:15:19] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes. I had several cousins that lived in the Detroit area and even during the summertime, we lived in a very nice sized home and there was always extra bedrooms available. There were times when some of my cousins from the Detroit area would come and spend a week or two with us in the summertime. That was always a fun experience.
- [00:15:51] JOYCE HUNTER: In terms of school, did you play any sports or join any other activities outside of school?
- [00:16:01] GEORGE GOODMAN: I played football in high school. But as my sons remind me, I just ended up playing because I went to a school that needed enough people to field a team so [LAUGHTER] anyone that showed up usually got a spot on the team. But I'm far from an athlete, that was it. Right now, actually my biggest activity since I've been retired is biking. Well, my wife and I do a lot of walking and hiking too but I enjoy bike riding, but I'm not into sport type activities as such.
- [00:16:53] JOYCE HUNTER: So in terms of you played football, but did they have clubs like chess clubs or those kinds of things that you could participate in?
- [00:17:01] GEORGE GOODMAN: When I was in high school, I was a member of the Junior Achievement organization. Actually, I ended up being president of my JA company. [NOISE] Junior Achievement, I assume it's still going on. It's a great opportunity for young people to learn actually how to become businesspeople. You made a product, then you put together a marketing plan to sell it and so forth. I enjoyed that experience. But beyond that, there were no other organizations or clubs I should say, that I was a part of in school.
- [00:17:51] JOYCE HUNTER: Well just being president of the Junior Achievement probably kept you pretty busy?
- [00:17:56] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes. It certainly gave me the opportunity to appreciate what it was like to try to provide guidance and direction to other people. I guess I got selected as a leader because sometimes you take on a role of leadership because you ask a couple of questions and then people assume that you're the person that should be leading something.
- [00:18:30] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm not sure if there're still chapters, but if there are, it could be by a different name. But I'm not [OVERLAPPING] familiar with Junior Achievement. Did your family have any special sayings or expressions during this time?
- [00:18:47] GEORGE GOODMAN: I'm sorry, I didn't understand what you just asked.
- [00:18:50] JOYCE HUNTER: Did your family have any special sayings or expressions during this time when you were in school?
- [00:18:59] GEORGE GOODMAN: Not that I can recall.
- [00:19:03] JOYCE HUNTER: Were there any changes in your family's life during your school years?
- [00:19:10] GEORGE GOODMAN: No, not really. Well, I guess the only change that happened when I was in school was my dad retired from the Ford Motor Company because I was still in college at that time. Just as a retiree, I had an opportunity to see more of him at the house. But other than that, there weren't really any big changes that occurred.
- [00:19:42] JOYCE HUNTER: When thinking back on your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at that time? And how did they personally affect you and your family?
- [00:19:58] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, of course, when I was a youngster, I can remember when JFK was assassinated. That actually happened shortly after I got married. Back in the, when was this, '63, I had been married actually for about a year when that happened. But prior to that time, I remember when I was in high school when Adlai Stevenson was running for president and he came through Ypsilanti and gave a speech at Pease Auditorium there on the campus at Eastern Michigan University. I went to Roosevelt School in Ypsilanti. The entire school was allowed to go and listen to his speech. At that time, there was also a big issue with regard to Truman and General MacArthur. MacArthur basically got fired by Truman because he disobeyed some of the President's orders. As a really young person, I can remember some of the chitchat that went on about that although at the time I was too young to really appreciate what all that was about. But at that particular time it was kind of a big deal in the community.
- [00:21:58] JOYCE HUNTER: You lived during the era of segregation?
- [00:22:02] GEORGE GOODMAN: Oh, sure. Absolutely.
- [00:22:04] JOYCE HUNTER: Can you speak about that? Was your school segregated? Was the elementary school near your home? And was there a high school for Black students in the same area? And I can repeat any of those questions if you'd like.
- [00:22:18] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, first of all, I did not go to the local elementary school. I went to Roosevelt School, which was the lab school for Eastern Michigan University. The number of Black students that went to Roosevelt were fairly limited. I think maybe there were about eight of us in our class that started Roosevelt together. However, in the city of Ypsilanti, the Black community, basically, the elementary school in Ypsilanti was called the Harriet Street School. That's where the bulk of the Black students that were going to elementary grades attended school. However, the high school and the two middle schools were all open to anyone that would go. Depending on your geographical location, you had to ride the bus to get to school. But during the time that I was growing up, it was clear that there were a lot of issues in the community as it related to the whole role of education and how the community felt about trying to integrate not only the schools, but also the housing organization or activities. In Ypsilanti it was quite awhile before a Black person was able to buy a house in an area that I would call north of Michigan Avenue. The south side of Ypsilanti is where the bulk of the Black community lived. That's where I lived. My family lived on the south side of Ypsilanti. It was a different experience. I can remember listening to my parents talk about issues then. For example, our side of the community was the last to get the streets paved, have curb and gutters put in. I can remember as a really young child, when it rained the roads and things got so muddy that in some instances it was almost impossible to pass by because of the drainage problems and simply not the infrastructure at that time in the south side of the community was not repaired properly or constructed, I should say. A lot of it obviously goes back to not only what has happened in Ypsilanti, but what happens in a lot of communities during that period of time where if you were Black and you lived in a certain area, your part of the community was the last to be upgraded. I clearly remember those things that happened as a child growing up in the community.
- [00:26:09] JOYCE HUNTER: Now tell me a little bit more about Roosevelt School. How were you able to go to Roosevelt instead of Harriet?
- [00:26:18] GEORGE GOODMAN: My parents decided that they wanted me to have the opportunity to go to a school that was a part of the university. They valued education quite a bit. When I became of age back in the kindergarten or prior to kindergarten, they went up to the school and talked to the officials, the principal or whoever it was, and filled out the application and indicated that they wanted me to enroll. That's basically how I ended up going to Roosevelt School. They, well, the interesting thing is that I walked to school quite a bit. There were a group of my friends that I stopped along the way as we walked to school together. Occasionally if the weather was bad, my mother would drive and drop us off at school, but we did a lot of walking back and forth to school at that time.
- [00:27:43] JOYCE HUNTER: How long a walk was that? Do you know approximately?
- [00:27:48] GEORGE GOODMAN: Oh, I'd say it was probably a little over two miles, each way.
- [00:27:56] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [00:27:57] GEORGE GOODMAN: And at that time, of course, that's quite a distance.
- [00:28:01] JOYCE HUNTER: I was just thinking that. So when you parents enrolled you, was there a fee or some kind of test, or they just decided you were going?
- [00:28:14] GEORGE GOODMAN: I don't remember whether I had to take a particular test or not, but yes, they did have to pay an extra fee. It was like a tuition to be able to enroll there at the school. I don't recall that level of detail with regard to what they had to go through initially.
- [00:28:48] JOYCE HUNTER: Now approximately how many other Black students were in your class?
- [00:28:55] GEORGE GOODMAN: I want to say, I think there were about eight of us and most of us all came from the south side of Ypsilanti: myself, several Taylors, several members from the Kersey family, there were a couple of the Herndon family. Then later beyond elementary school, there were a few additional Black students that came to the school that I think they lived out in the, well we called it the country, but it would be more like out in the Ypsilanti Township area.
- [00:29:45] JOYCE HUNTER: Now, what grade, did that go up to high school or did you had to then leave at a certain age and go to a high school?
- [00:29:54] GEORGE GOODMAN: No. Roosevelt actually was K through 12, so I went to kindergarten in a building that's called Welch Hall, which is actually a part of the campus at Eastern Michigan. Then from Welch Hall, Roosevelt building itself contained grades 1-12. The elementary school was on the ground level and the middle school and the high school was on the upper level. It was all basically in the same building.
- [00:30:47] JOYCE HUNTER: How did that work out with the different age groups?
- [00:30:53] GEORGE GOODMAN: Oh, it worked out quite well because the way the building was structured, it had a couple of different wings on it. If you were in elementary levels, it was rare that you ever interacted with anyone other than other elementary students. The first grade, and the second grade, and the third grade were all in a similar area.
- [00:31:29] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. Who were your teachers? Did you have Black teachers?
- [00:31:36] GEORGE GOODMAN: I don't recall any Black teachers when I was there as a student. Actually, I ended up going back to teach at the school after I got out of the service. There was one Black, I think he taught biology at the school. But during the time that I was a student at the school, I do not recall having any Black teachers there at all.
- [00:32:13] JOYCE HUNTER: When you went back, how was that experience for you as a teacher?
- [00:32:18] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, when I went back to teach there, it was quite interesting. There were a lot more Black students there at the school, although it was required that they pay tuition and they had to go through some sort of process as far as the enrollment was concerned. But I was able to teach in a special program that basically included grades 4 through 8. We were involved in a special project called a component curriculum program. The goal of that program was to try and see if we could put together a learning environment so that not only did students have subjects that they taught, but they also were able to get together during the course of their school day and learn how to make decisions as a group that would impact society. It was a very nice program. I enjoyed it tremendously. Unfortunately, the state of Michigan made the decision to close most of the lab schools in the state during that period of time. Roosevelt School closed--I think the last class must have been in about 1969. One of my other favorite memories is the fact that I was invited to come back and be the commencement speaker for the last graduating class at the school when it closed. But I have nothing but fond memories there of both being a student there, but also being a member of the faculty for a fairly short period of time.
- [00:34:39] JOYCE HUNTER: That was very special to go back and be the commencement speaker. I was going to ask what happened to Roosevelt School, but then you told me, [LAUGHTER] so I know what happened. Going back still when you were in high school, were there restaurants or eating places for Blacks where you lived?
- [00:35:01] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, sure there were a lot of restaurants and things. Harriet Street in Ypsilanti at that time had a pretty substantial number of Black businesses, including some restaurants, including barbershops, pool halls, drugstores, grocery stores. Much more so back then, than actually is currently the case in the community. My parents opened up the clothing store that I mentioned earlier called Goodman's Fashion Center. [NOISE] One of the primary reasons that they decided to do that was because it was obvious in terms of the shopping for Black people, you could go in some of the stores in downtown Ypsilanti, and you could look at the clothes but you couldn't try them on. That was not something that went over very well with a lot of people. My mother decided that she was going to open a store and make it accessible to the Black community. I think she was in business from about 1949 or '47 maybe. My memory is a little slack on that time period, but they were in business until about 1965 when the urban renewal program came to the community and they ended up selling their business to the urban renewal program.
- [00:37:09] JOYCE HUNTER: I want to go back for a second to restaurants. But let's talk about Harriet Street.
- [00:37:16] GEORGE GOODMAN: Okay.
- [00:37:17] JOYCE HUNTER: Harriet Street was more or less a Black business area.
- [00:37:23] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes.
- [00:37:24] JOYCE HUNTER: Tell me again, it had stores. Was it a grocery store, or what else did it have?
- [00:37:31] GEORGE GOODMAN: There was a grocery store, there were barbershops, there were a couple of restaurants, there were my parents' store there, there was a drugstore, there was a bar, Louise Mahaley's Blue--I can't remember the name of it now, but it was a bar lounge on Harriet Street. But there was about three or four blocks of businesses up and down the street.
- [00:38:13] JOYCE HUNTER: I asked about that because I think when we interviewed another individual, it might have been Mayor Lois, she talked about this area. I know that oftentimes when we have interviewed people that grew up in the Ann Arbor area, they talk about the Fourth Street area as being a Black business district. So Harriet was sort of that way in Ypsilanti. Is that right?
- [00:38:35] GEORGE GOODMAN: Right. Yeah.
- [00:38:38] JOYCE HUNTER: Also, I wanted to ask you about, other restaurants that were owned by whites, were you able to go to any of those restaurants?
- [00:38:47] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, back in that day, my family didn't really go out to restaurants very often. But I do remember specifically one of the more prominent restaurants in Ypsilanti that was called Haab's Restaurant, which was on Michigan Avenue in downtown Ypsilanti. It was basically like living in the South. They had a side window or door where you could order your food, but then you went there to pick it up. As I said, I never had that experience because we never did it. But many people that I have spoken to that also [NOISE] grew up even prior to my youth, remember those days very vividly. Ironically that particular restaurant is still in business and it's now co-owned by a young Black man. Obviously, it's changed certainly. But it's just reflective of how some of the behavior and requirements that were authorized under law then? [NOISE]
- [00:40:26] JOYCE HUNTER: I'm sorry. Go ahead.
- [00:40:29] GEORGE GOODMAN: No, I was just saying that it was permitted at that time because that was prior to 1954.
- [00:40:46] JOYCE HUNTER: Now, when you talk about it still being open, so that is now. [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:40:56] GEORGE GOODMAN: I mean, it's still in business.
- [00:40:57] JOYCE HUNTER: Still in business, right?
- [00:40:59] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes.
- [00:41:01] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. Do you know who the owner is, the name of the owner?
- [00:41:09] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yeah. I'm trying to think of his name. I'm drawing a blank.
- [00:41:16] JOYCE HUNTER: I remember the gentleman that owned it, but I'm thinking maybe he's since retired, so I can't think of of his name.
- [00:41:28] GEORGE GOODMAN: The original owner of the restaurant, Haab was the owner up until probably the mid '70s or early '80s. His name was Oscar Haab. Then another gentleman bought it, and I'm drawing a blank on his name. But I believe he still is the owner of it now. Kabat, that's it. His name is Mike Kabat.
- [00:42:05] JOYCE HUNTER: All right.
- [00:42:07] GEORGE GOODMAN: But there was another fellow that was a partner with him, and I don't remember his name. He's the African American gentlemen that I referred to.
- [00:42:21] JOYCE HUNTER: Let me ask you about accommodations. When people came in from out of town were there places for Blacks to stay?
- [00:42:35] GEORGE GOODMAN: That's an interesting observation because part of the history of Ypsilanti has to do with the fact that Black people were not able to stay at the hotels. Ypsilanti had a famous hotel when I was growing up called the Huron Hotel. If you happened to be Black, you could not stay there. I can attest to that directly because my wife's dad, well they moved to the community in the late '40s and he worked for the federal government. When he and his wife came to Ypsilanti to first interview for his position, they tried to stay at the Huron Hotel but they could not. As a result, one of the employees at the hotel asked him to contact my parents because they knew that they had a fairly large home and perhaps they would be willing to let them stay with them, which they did. Then later on I ended up marrying their daughter.
- [00:44:09] JOYCE HUNTER: Wow. [LAUGHTER] It's 60 years later. Y'all are getting ready to celebrate 60 years of marriage.
- [00:44:18] GEORGE GOODMAN: Sixty years. [LAUGHTER] But back in that day, a community like Ypsilanti was a reflection of the way a lot of communities were in the South. People talked about the South being segregated, but that's simply because they didn't pay a whole lot of attention to it in the North, but the same thing was happening in the North of our country.
- [00:44:49] JOYCE HUNTER: Let me ask you this, so the person that referred your in-laws--wasn't in-laws then--but referred them to your parents, was that somebody working at the hotel?
- [00:45:04] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes. He was like, I want to say a porter maybe or something like that.
- [00:45:12] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay.
- [00:45:13] GEORGE GOODMAN: But it ended up that the reason he knew that my parents might be willing to let my wife's parents stay with them is because one of his relatives used to work for my parents in their business and that's how that connection came together.
- [00:45:41] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay, great. The story you told about meeting your wife and marrying her, that's going to take us to Part 3, which you can elaborate. Adulthood, marriage, and family life. This set of questions covers a fairly long period of your life, from the time you completed your education, entered the labor force or started a family, until after all your children left home and you and/or your spouse retired. We might be talking about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. After you finished high school, where did you live?
- [00:46:20] GEORGE GOODMAN: When I finished high school, I still lived in Ypsilanti because I went to Eastern Michigan and I was a commuter. I lived at home, but I commuted back and forth to university. Then after I finished university, I got married when I was a senior at Eastern and I was in ROTC and as a result I was commissioned as a regular army officer and because I was in the top five percent of my class, I also had the opportunity to get my first duty assignment of selection, so I selected to go to Germany. By making that selection, my wife was also able to go with me because the government provided me concurrent travel. I spent nearly 5.5 years as an Army officer and then when I got out of the service I came back and was fortunate to get to job teaching at my former high school, which was Roosevelt. Then I was there for about two years, I believe, and we knew that the school was going to close and so fortunately, I was able to get a position at the University of Michigan when I was assistant director of undergraduate admissions.
- [00:48:05] JOYCE HUNTER: The next question is talking about when you met your wife and but you already told us about that. But I do want to know, did you all date? How much time passed before you all actually got engaged in marriage?
- [00:48:24] GEORGE GOODMAN: We first met when we were seniors in high school. It's a long story and you'd clearly run out of tape for me tell it. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:48:37] JOYCE HUNTER: Tell us the basics. [LAUGHTER]
- [00:48:43] GEORGE GOODMAN: Let me back up. I was invited to my wife's 16th birthday party, but the invitation that was delivered by the post office got stuck in the bottom of our mailbox at our house. [NOISE] As a result, I did not get the invitation out of the mailbox until after the party had taken place. When I got the invitation out, I opened it and I looked at it, but I did not know who she was. But I asked my mother who this person was and she knew right away because her mother was a client at her store. Anyway, I called to apologize for not responding and I ended up speaking to her mother and she told me that she was babysitting, but she'd be back at a later date or later time that evening and I could call back and chat, which I did. We talked on the phone for, I don't know, probably half hour or so. Then she invited me to come out to meet her cousin. From that point on, I guess we just gradually continued to interact with one another. We were both going to Eastern Michigan together and we just hit it off. But we didn't get married until 1962 although we started together at Eastern in--well we graduated from high school in 1958.
- [00:50:52] JOYCE HUNTER: So you got married what year?
- [00:50:54] GEORGE GOODMAN: 1962.
- [00:50:56] JOYCE HUNTER: 1962. Okay, very good. Now, tell me about your children. You already mentioned you have two sons. Did you say two sons?
- [00:51:05] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes.
- [00:51:06] JOYCE HUNTER: Tell me about your children.
- [00:51:09] GEORGE GOODMAN: Okay, our oldest son was born in Germany when I was an Army officer. When we moved back to the United States, he must have been about 18 months old. Then gradually I got out of the service and we continued to live in the Ypsilanti area. Our second son was born in Ypsilanti at Beyer Hospital. They are almost four years apart. But they both have gone off in both interesting but different careers. Our oldest son is a special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. He's been with that agency now for, I think 34 or 35 years. He's eligible to retire, but he just submitted a request through the federal government to work one more year and that was granted. He will be working now until next, I think it's December. Our youngest son and his wife live in Denver, Colorado. He has been in the business field for quite awhile and is currently involved in running a company in the Denver area, along with his wife.
- [00:53:17] JOYCE HUNTER: Okay. So they've been very successful.
- [00:53:22] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes. Quite successful.
- [00:53:25] JOYCE HUNTER: That's great. Do you have any grandchildren?
- [00:53:28] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes. We have three grandsons and we have two great grandchildren.
- [00:53:37] JOYCE HUNTER: Usually when I ask grandparents about grandchildren, they just go on and on and on. [LAUGHTER] Anything you want to share?
- [00:53:47] GEORGE GOODMAN: All of our grandchildren are doing great. One lives in England and the other one teaches in the Ecorse public school system and the other one works for a company in the Ypsilanti area.
- [00:54:06] JOYCE HUNTER: The one that is in England, what is he doing in England?
- [00:54:12] GEORGE GOODMAN: He went there to actually play soccer in a semi-pro league and he ended up liking it and finished his university degree there and is now working for a large consulting company called Arthur Andersen, I think it is called.
- [00:54:38] JOYCE HUNTER: Arthur Andersen is a big accounting company. Let me ask you about your children when they were growing up and in school, were there any issues in terms of expectations of them from teachers or difficulties they had because of their race?
- [00:55:02] GEORGE GOODMAN: I'm not aware that any of them had specific issues as it related to their race. I think they grew up in an environment where we indoctrinated them with the idea that they are just as good as anybody and that they weren't to take any stuff from anybody. They were also to treat any and everybody with calm and collected thought and not let anything get under their skin. I'm sure there were times when out of our environments, they probably encountered situations that were sometimes uncomfortable for them, but we don't recall, I don't recall any instance particularly where they reflected on anything that took place in their school days that was a direct result of their racial background. Our oldest son ended up being the president of his class for all four years when he was in high school. Our youngest son, during his high school days we often wondered whether he was going to actually make it out of high school, [LAUGHTER] but he went on and got a degree in philosophy and now has been quite a successful business person. Times have changed also to the point where the environment that they grew up and went to school in was certainly hopefully changed for the better in terms of the experiences that they had versus what a lot of others experienced.
- [00:57:34] JOYCE HUNTER: We're going to move to Part 4, which is work and retirement. Some of these questions you've already answered, so I'm going to go down to a question that says, what is the biggest difference in your main field of employment from the time you started until now?
- [00:57:55] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, when you talk about the main field of employment, the two longest held positions that I had was at the University and with the Michigan Municipal League. I think certainly times have changed now as it relates to the way in which both local governments and state and federal governments are interacting with one another. During the days that I was in my working years, there seemed to have been a stronger sense of civility in our society. For the past 10 or 15 years, it just seems to me that we've lost a sense of dignity and respect for each other. Everyone seems to have their fists balled up for various reasons. I understand why some of that's the case, but that has been a change to me over the past 15 or 20 years, which just makes it awfully unpleasant as a citizen to have to deal with. During the years that I was a public office holder, we had our trials and tribulations. We certainly had some stressful days and so forth, but I don't know that I would be at all that interested in wanting to be a local, or for that matter a national political figure now. It just seems that our society has shifted in directions which isn't necessarily as healthy as certainly I would like it to be.
- [01:00:13] JOYCE HUNTER: Because I think about all of this on the news and it brings about for me just anxiety. There's so much going on.
- [01:00:23] GEORGE GOODMAN: Yes.
- [01:00:25] JOYCE HUNTER: When thinking back on your working adult life, what important social or historical events were taking place at that time and how did they personally affect you and your family?
- [01:00:41] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, of course, one of the things that I recall when I was certainly an adult was when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Well, let me back up. I mentioned earlier JFK being assassinated, that was shortly after we got married. We were on our way to Germany, as a matter of fact, our household goods were being packed at my parents house when the word came down that he had been assassinated. But I also recall when Martin Luther King was assassinated. Well, Robert Kennedy of course too, but Martin Luther King's assassination probably impacted me in ways even now that I didn't totally appreciate at that time, because when I first graduated from Eastern and moved to Fort Benning, Georgia to go to officer basic training and then to jump school, my wife was obviously with me at that time and we participated in some voter registration activities then trying to encourage people to sign up to register to vote. In the later year, I was actually teaching at Roosevelt at the time, I was at a conference when Martin Luther King was assassinated. We were very concerned then about what was going to happen in our country and whether we were going to continue to have some prominent Black leadership that would be able to step forward and pick up the mantle of civil rights leadership where Martin Luther King had been so eloquent and so good about rallying people together around being civil but still seeking rights. Those early expressions and feelings that you have when you realize that a person gets killed for what they believe in and what they attempted to do, even though they were advocates of nonviolence, to lose one's life because of violence made it very difficult to try to continue talking to young people about the values and the goals of what it means to use your mind in terms of convincing people as opposed to using your bodies. Even now, in 2022, we're right back where we were then in terms of a whole cadre of citizenry now believes that in order to get their way, they have to take up arms and try intimidate everyone else into believing how they believe. It's an ongoing struggle. It's very stressful. Yet it's something that as I continue to tell my own boys and my grandchildren, you cannot allow other people to dictate to you how you live your life. You have to carry on day-to-day doing what you can do to make change and improve the world. But it does get awfully difficult, believe me.
- [01:05:10] JOYCE HUNTER: Yes, it does. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [01:05:21] GEORGE GOODMAN: Well, I'm proud of the fact that I was fortunate enough to make the wise choice of a spouse and we've had a wonderful life together. We've got a great family, we've traveled and we've had the opportunity to go to parts of the world where it even makes you appreciate more where you've come from. We've had the experience and the opportunity to travel in Africa and see a vast difference in terms of how people live, and how they literally have to struggle every day just for the basics, like getting firewood and preparing meals and trying to keep nutritious and healthy. I appreciate all the experiences that I've had and I'm constantly reflecting and sharing with my own family the fact that we try to do what we can to continue helping other people, and it's not because you expect any pat on the back or rewards, but you certainly, it makes you feel good to know that you've made a difference in the lives of other people. There's a young man that I met who was a patient at a children's psychiatric hospital where I worked part-time when I was a student at Eastern. Many years later, when I was still working at the university, he came and was able to find me and the only question he asked me then when we saw one another was, did I ever really think he was crazy? I told him in no uncertain terms, no. You were not crazy at all. You were just a young boy that needed some direction, and fortunately he had the opportunity to find that direction at that institution and now he's retired, he's 65 years old. He's got his family and we continue to communicate with one another. It's just the idea that each one of us does not always appreciate it, but we have the capacity and the ability to touch other people, and in many ways we do things in a way that we touch a lot of people's lives, but we never hear about it. But just knowing that there's people out there that you've been able to help and made a difference in the directions that they took in their lives I think just makes us all stronger individuals for that. And for that certainly, I have nothing but good feelings about the number of people that I've not only influenced my life, but I know there's a lot of people that I've tried to influence their lives and get them turned in the right direction. Many of them, I will never hear from and I will never see again. But when I have an opportunity to read something good about so many, I have a lot of students, even now that I read about from time to time who've gone on with successful careers, and it just makes you feel good to know that you had a part in their life as they were going along the way.
- [01:09:53] JOYCE HUNTER: Thank you for sharing that and just the idea that sharing that what you're most proud of is your family, that is so very special. Thank you for sharing that story about that young man who's now getting ready to retire. Not so much a young man anymore, but certainly he was then. [LAUGHTER] The final question is, what advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:10:23] GEORGE GOODMAN: My strongest advice to the younger generation is to continue educating yourself. Whether it's formal education or informal education. Continue to read, continue to think, use your brain. That's the reason that so many young people now don't feel as if they are making a difference because they do not think for themselves. We have to think for ourselves in order to make a difference, and it's all well and good to have a group that you can associate with, but don't let the group completely dominate your life. I just think we have to continue being a society of educated people and without education and without the ability to use our minds as a tool of advancement, will always keep us at a disadvantage.
- [01:11:47] JOYCE HUNTER: That's great advice. That was our last question, but I do want to see if you have any final words or thoughts. Anything else you want to say?
- [01:11:58] GEORGE GOODMAN: No. I appreciate the opportunity and I thank you so much for inviting me to participate in the interview. I've enjoyed this interchange.
- [01:12:12] JOYCE HUNTER: Thank you for doing the interview. It was great to meet you and to do the interview. I really enjoyed it.
February 8, 2022
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