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George Goodwin: 94 Years of Wit & Wisdom

Two masters.

Photographer and Local Color Provider Ilia Varcev was with us this past Sunday to celebrate George Goodwin’s 94th. Here, Varchev with George.

Born June 20, 1917, George is a little frail of body but not of mind,  a steel trap of information, logic and wit sharp but never barbed. I met ths legend the year he ‘retired’ in 1986—he went to the office every week after until the passing of his beloved wife, Skippy Goodwin in December 2005.

In Februrary my dear friend and long-time advisor asked me to draft a small remarks for the 2011 Dan Sweat Award ceremony. I was stunned—but not because I thought he did not deserve this rare and high honor (there have been only 12). Nor because I thought it staggering that the award would be given so late in his life (it was overdue, perhaps). Or because George Goodwin had asked ME to help HIM write a speech (a first, sure, but we had collaborated before.)

What stunned me was his answer to my follow-up question:  ”Shall we address your long-time role in helping to make a regional city a truly great American city with international bonafides?” — it seemed a logical topic and non-controversial. No one wants controversy at 7 am with the mayor and governor in attendance.

Hell no, ” he replied with force. “I want to talk about the future!” He handed over an opinion piece by Mayor Kasim Reed for the previous Sunday’s paper. In it Reed reminded readers that, in Georgia, when it comes to transportation and commerce, there is no such thing as a “local” problem. I was delighted.

At 94, George Goodwin still places his bets on tomorrow. His sees possibility and hope where others see gridlock and despair. On June 5, 2011,  I prepared a host of cold salads and brought them to his Buckhead home to mark his 94 birthday. Collaborating with his daughter Gail and son Clarke. For George, the “what” and “when” of the party were irrelevant. The “who” was all that mattered: Friends, especially of the female persuasion. George has built a career on making, keeping and sharing friends. We have all benefited from his habit.

Friend, neighbor Peter White gathers it in.

No such thing as too many kisses or ladies at your 94th birthday.

It was then Julia’s turn.

Neighbor Payton snaps the family: Warren, Old G, Clarke and Gail.

Emory’s Dr. Al Brann, Jr and wife with George.

Blonds have all the fun.

Stacey Hader Epstein with George.

No, thank YOU, Mr. G.

Note: George had the momentary lapse in reason  to offer to me my first real professional job after graduating from Georgetown University  in 1985. George never regretted his choice of me, but I wager his managers did. I lost the job but I kept his friendship, far more valuable than a heads-down, mouths-shut PR position for which I was ill-suited. In the feature image by Ilia Varcev at the top, I am holding a facsimile of the front page taken from microfiche while George beams. It shows the Atlanta Journal headline in 1947:   “TELFAIR DEAD FOUND VOTING,” a reporter’s scoop that put the political career of the dastardly scion Herman Talmadge on temporary hold and permanently ending the famous “Three Governor’s Affair” of Georgia. The clue that made Goodwin suspect legitimacy of the voting rolls of that county in 1946 was the fact that 50+ votes were in precise alphabetical order. Goodwin then found that the list of names had an exact replica: planted in the town’s white graveyard. Young Talmadge was forced to give up his claim on the governor’s seat. Goodwin’s reporting won him a 1948 Pulitzer Prize for journalism. Old Huh-mahn, confessed, near the end of his life, a begrudging respect for the man whose grave digging temporarily had upset his family’s hold on Georgia’s political power.

About porterwrite

Born in Jax. Raised in ATL. Schooled at Druid Hills, UNC, Georgetown, Poynter Institute. Worked in DC, ATL, NYC, LA, BKK, back to NYC then ATL then SFO then back to ATL. Been here since 1996. Married to George 16 years. Three dogs, nice home, good friends. What more could a fellow ask for?

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