‘Keep That Fire Burning:’ Remembering Phoenix Civil Rights Icon Calvin C. Goode

City of Phoenix

By Cheyanne Mumphrey

January 18, 2021

Goode was the second Black councilmember for the city of Phoenix and the longest-tenured elected official in its history.

Phoenix lost a legend after the death of civil rights icon, city leader, and longtime Arizona resident Calvin C. Goode. 

Goode died on Dec. 23 from an illness not related to COVID-19. He was 93.

On Mondaym the city will celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday with a virtual award ceremony honoring the newest honoree of the Calvin C. Goode Lifetime Achievement Award.

The events follow a public, open-casket viewing hosted Jan. 9 outside of the former city hall, renamed after Goode. Dozens of people gathered donning facial coverings and sharing memories in celebration of Goode’s life. 

Mayor Kate Gallego said it was a rare occurrence to have someone laid in state in the city. But she also said it was an honor for her and the city to celebrate his life in front of a building named after him — one of only two buildings in Phoenix named for city officials.

Goode’s Jan. 12 funeral was interrupted by hackers yelling racist slurs. The Phoenix Police Department is investigating the incident. 

Goode was the second Black councilmember for the city of Phoenix and the longest-tenured elected official in its history, serving on the Phoenix City Council from Jan. 2, 1972 until Jan. 3, 1994, including as vice mayor in 1974 and 1984.

‘Keep That Fire Burning:’ Remembering Phoenix Civil Rights Icon Calvin C. Goode
City of Phoenix

Goode often disagreed with other council members during his 22-year tenure, voting in the 1980s against freeway expansion projects he argued would destroy neighborhoods already struggling to repair from segregation.

As late as 1960, half of the Black residents in Phoenix lived south of downtown, and the neighboring city of Tempe was considered a “sundown town” where Black people could work during the day but had to be gone by nightfall or risk arrest or physical violence.

Goode spent his time fighting to improve the quality of life in Phoenix for low-income Black residents long after his last days on the council. He retired in 1994, but continued advocating for equal opportunity, affordable housing, and education through multiple organizations, including the Eastlake Neighborhood Association and the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center.

Originally from Oklahoma, Goode and his family moved to Arizona when he was a child. He attended Carver High School, a school in Phoenix for Black students, before earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Arizona State University.

First Institutional Baptist Church Pastor Rev. Dr. Warren H. Stewart Sr., who was a friend and neighbor to Goode in Eastlake Park, recalled the late councilor’s work from pushing the city to observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday before the state, creating the Booker T. Washington Child Development Center and helping the Historic Tanner Chapel AME Church become a designated historic landmark.

Goode was also a longtime member of the church, which opened in 1886 and is known as the state’s oldest African American church. Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams, who attended the viewing with her family, even said Goode had his own bench in the sanctuary at the AME church where they both attended.

In 1977, Stewart said Goode welcomed him to Phoenix and spoke at his installation as pastor of First Institutional. But Stewart said “the most prestigious” memory he had was receiving the Calvin C. Goode Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003. The award was created in 1994 when Goode retired. It recognizes one person who made the city better by promoting social and economic justice and defending civil rights.

“I’m not overwhelmed with grief because he lived until he was 93 and was active until his last moments,” Stewart told The Associated Press. “I’m thankful to God he was able to be around. I’m filled with lots of thanksgiving.”

Mary Rose Wilcox shared in Stewart’s sentiment, calling Goode a “very principled and grounded man, who brought the right aspects of his Christian faith and principles into public service.”

He lifted the people around him and made everyone else a little bit better, she said.

Wilcox, who was the first Hispanic woman to serve on both the City Council and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, said Goode was on the council when she was elected in 1982.

‘Keep That Fire Burning:’ Remembering Phoenix Civil Rights Icon Calvin C. Goode
AP Photo/Cheyanne Mumphrey

“He was a mentor to me and took me under his wing. We became really good colleagues and formed a strong coalition representing south, west, and intercity Phoenix. We served together for a decade and were very much involved in civil rights and human rights,” Wilcox said, adding that he was unafraid to speak on behalf of the Black and Latino communities.

Several current council members and other state politicians highlighted the influence he had on their lives and work, including Arizona Democratic Party Chair Felecia Rotellini and councilmembers Carlos Garcia, Michael Nowakowski, Thelda Williams and Debra Stark.

“Mr. Goode was a soft-spoken man, but lion-hearted — an unshakeable force for progress, equality, and civil rights,” Democratic state Rep. Reginald Bolding said in a statement. “It is up to all of us who knew him, who loved him, or who are just learning about him, to keep that fire burning.”

Democratic U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego said Goode “left our neighborhoods and this world better than he found it, and that is a legacy that his family, his friends, and all who knew him should hold dear.”

Goode is survived by three sons, six grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Georgie, who he married in 1960, died in 2015. She was 87. 


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