Pastors' Memoirs

Bishop W. Kenneth Goodson, 1912-1991

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Bishop W. Kenneth Goodson, called by God to be His minister, was born in Salisbury, North Carolina, on September 25, 1912, the son of Daniel Washington and Sarah Peeler Goodson. He died at his home in Winston-Salem, September 17, 1991, after a long illness. He is survived by his wife and partner in ministry, Martha Ogburn Goodson, and three children: Ann (Mrs. Lany M. Faust), Nancy (Mrs. Dilmus R. Richey), and W. Kenneth Goodson, Jr.; 10 grandchildren; three brothers, Joe M., H. White, and Elwood K. Goodson.

After graduation from the public schools of Salisbury, Kenneth Goodson received the Bachelor of Arts degree from Catawba College in 1934. He received his seminary training at the Divinity School of Duke University. This began a lifelong love for that school. It is one of nine colleges and universities which conferred on him honorary degrees. At the time of his death he was a trustee emeritus of Duke having resigned from the board to accept a position as the first clergy member of the board of trustees of the Duke Endowment. Upon his retirement in 1980, he was invited to become bishop-in-residence at the Divinity School. Dean Dennis Campbell said of him, "He taught for us. He counseled with students. He represented the school all over the world"

Often he referred to his first pastorate at the Oak Ridge Methodist Church and his association with the students at the Oak Ridge Military Academy. It was here that he and Martha began a long and joyful life together in the ministry of the church and in service to the larger world community. He served West Market Street and Muir's Chapel churches in Greensboro, First Methodist Church in Wadesboro, High Point and Charlotte. He served three years as district superintendent of the Winston-Salem District and was the pastor of Centenary Methodist Church of that city when on July 9, 1964; he was elected to the episcopacy of the Methodist Church.

Kenneth Goodson was assigned to the Birmingham Area of The Methodist Church, as bishop of the North Alabama and Alabama-West Florida Annual Conferences. In Alabama, he led the church through the crisis days of the civil rights struggle. In 1972, he came to Virginia as bishop of the Richmond Area. He came as a strong leader and he and Martha soon captivated the people of the Virginia conference with their winsome personalities and deep concern for the church and her people. He was no stranger to the members of the General Assembly of Virginia, appearing there year after year in opposition to pari-mutuel gambling and on other issues before that body. He led forth as God's man in the capital city.

Ken Goodson had a remarkable capacity for caring. Other people talk about doing something for a friend; he did it. The telephone was an ever present tool of his life. He used it! In his message at the memorial service in Centenary Church, Winston-Salem, Bishop Dwight Loder told of being met at the airport by a gentleman who said, "I am one of Ken Goodson's 10,000 best friends." He combated loneliness in a lonely job by making his associates his best friends. The Cabinet became his family and he and Martha were in and out of the homes of the clergy so frequently that it was quite natural to welcome them in. I think of him as a "people" person. His office door was always open, as open as his heart, to a person with a problem or a need. He didn't sit very much in his office but walked the halls of the United Methodist Building, dropping in on the staff persons he might find to hear about the work or pass the time of day. He was a great preacher but he also communicated wonderfully well, one to one.

In the general church he served on the General Board of Missions. He was the first president of the General Commission on Religion and Race, served four years as a member of the Division of Chaplains of the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, and served for eight years as the first president of the Board of Discipleship. In April of 1975, he was elected president-designate of the Council of Bishops of the United Methodist Church. The next year he assumed the office of president and in that capacity represented the church well in Europe as in the United States.

Most of all we remember him as one of the best preachers in the church. On one occasion he had concluded a sermon at Junaluska a fellow bishop remarked. "That boy can really preach." We loved to hear him. He could take us from laughter to tears in a moment and all of it done in the service of total commitment to God and His church. He never missed an opportunity to witness to the saving grace of Jesus Christ He enjoyed being a bishop but with it was completely human. For that reason he was greatly loved.

Services were held in Centenary United Methodist Church, Winston-Salem, conducted by his pastor, Dr. George Robinson, and Bishop Dwight Loder, with interment at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Greensboro.

-James W. Turner



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