Wayne Goode: A Lifetime of Service
On October 3, 2020, long time Missouri legislator and “father of UMSL,” Wayne Goode passed away at the age of 83 after a battle with leukemia. Goode spent 42 years in both the Missouri House of Representatives and Senate from 1963-2005, and served on the board of the Missouri Foundation for Health, Trailnet, the Missouri Historical Society, and the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, among others. Goode was passionate about education and the environment. He dedicated his life to serving his community and promoting positive change in the state of Missouri, and for that the UMSL family and Missourians alike owe him a debt of gratitude.
Goode was born on August 20, 1937 and went through the Normandy school system before attending the University of Missouri at Columbia, where he graduated in 1960 with a degree in finance and banking. After graduation, Goode briefly served in the Army for six months before returning home and running for the legislature, where he would be elected at the age of 25 and begin his 42-year career in the Missouri Congress. In an interview with Renae Farris in 2000, Goode cites John F. Kennedy Jr. as one of his inspirations for deciding to pursue a career in politics at such a young age. “Well, I graduated from the University of Missouri in 1960, and that’s when John Kennedy was running for president. He got a lot of young people excited about politics. I thought ‘well, if he could be president at age forty-two, I could probably get involved in politics in my early twenties.”
Goode did not waste any time after he took office. As a freshman legislator, he was able to get a bill passed that allowed the University of Missouri to open a new campus in St. Louis. This, however, was not the original plan. When the Normandy School District purchased the old Bellerive Country Club in the Normandy area they planned on using the land to open a new junior college. At this time, junior colleges were connected to school districts, and this new junior college was going to be like a thirteenth and fourteenth year option for students in the Normandy school district. Plans changed somewhere over the next couple of years, in part due to the close friendship between the president of the University of Missouri, Elmer Ellis, and the superintendent of the Normandy school district, Ward Barnes. The two decided that this would be the perfect time to open a new University of Missouri campus in the city of St. Louis. Wayne Goode’s piece of legislation cleared the way for them to make this dream a reality, and for the first time ever there was affordable, public, higher education in St. Louis. This was the birth of UMSL. House bill 153 was just 78 words, but apparently convincing enough to be approved by the Missouri House of Representatives, and then the Senate. Goode explained, “the key for passing this legislation through the general assembly, particularly for a freshman representative, was cementing strong local support, and then convincing our colleagues in rural Missouri. We had a good case, and I was fortunate to attract some very persuasive co-sponsors in introducing the bill to the house.”
Goode was also very passionate about the environment. Among his many great accomplishments were several bills he passed regarding environmental protection and health standards in Missouri including passing Missouri’s first law for the disposal of hazardous waste in 1977. In his time in the house of representatives he was also able to pass legislation regarding standards for drinking water, groundwater protection, cleaning up waste disposal sites, and requiring the state to monitor radiation and waste disposal more closely. After his retirement from politics in 2005, Goode spent many years on the board of directors for the Great Rivers Environmental Law Center, a non-profit public interest organization dedicated to preserving public health and a clean environment.
Another piece of legislation, that I believe highlights the kind of man that Goode was, involved race issues and civil rights. After Brown vs. Board of Education, there was no law in effect that could segregate schools, but there was still a provision that remained in the constitution, dating back to the Civil War, for separate but equal schools. Goode felt that this was an insult for Americans to have to live in a country where this verbiage was still in its constitution, so he fought to have it removed, and won. This is a true testament to the character of Goode and his dedication to serve all of the people of Missouri.
A complete list of Goode’s many accomplishments, awards, and positions of great esteem could fill a book. He was the chair of the Education Committee in the House of Representatives as well as the Chair of the Appropriations Committee for both the House and the Senate. He is also credited with creating the formula for how the public education system in Missouri is funded, that is still used to this day. He was the chair of the Missouri State Capitol Commission, and in 2009, Governor Jay Nixon appointed Goode to the Missouri Board of Curators. In 2015 he was given the title of “Curator Emeritus,” due to his great knowledge of the University of Missouri system providing a tremendous amount of value in his position. In 2019 Goode was presented with the Thomas Jefferson Society Award. This award is presented as the highest honor by the Missouri Historical Society for Goode’s over fifty years of service to the community. In 2006, UMSL unveiled a statue of Wayne Goode, “the father of UMSL,” in the center of the campus, commemorating his vital role in bringing public higher education to the St. Louis area.
In the far too often, ugly world of politics, Wayne Goode stood out as a man of great integrity and fairness, and his dedication to making his home state a better place for all of us who live here was an inspiration to many. “Some people, it seems, are born for public service and if there ever was one of those people it is Wayne Goode. I will not even try and list all of the boards and commissions on which Wayne has served,” said Bob Priddy in an article about the late senator. Wayne Goode leaves behind a legacy that includes over 100,000 college graduates, and countless others whose lives he touched. For his service and dedication to the people of Missouri, we shall forever be grateful.