Former Rep. Bill Goodling, who represented Pennsylvania’s 19th District for more than a quarter century, died Sunday. He was 89.
The Republican House veteran served 13 consecutive terms from 1975 through 2001. He first won office by more than 5,000 votes despite a Watergate storm that decimated the GOP in 1974. Goodling’s father, George Atlee Goodling, held the seat for four terms before him.
The former guidance counselor and school superintendent was a proud, no-nonsense traditionalist who trumpeted smaller government, lower taxes and local control.
From 1995 to 1999, he served as chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, guiding such legislation as the so-called Education Flexibility Partnership Act of 1999 that delegated overhaul efforts locally to states and school districts.
Pennsylvania GOP Rep. Scott Perry remembered Goodling in a statement Monday as “a tireless champion of strengthening educational opportunities for everyone” and shared a photo on Facebook of the full-length oil portrait of Goodling that still hangs in the hearing room over which he presided for four years.
Goodling was not without his quirks.
When late-night legislative bickering tipped him over the edge, he was known to skirt from the chamber, wind his way through the underground passages to the Longworth Building, and retreat into his office, where he took out his frustrations on the ivories of a beat-up old piano.
At his turn on the microphone in Congress, Goodling often scolded his political adversaries in a manner evincing his roots as a high school principal and athletics coach. At a bill signing in 1998, he pounced on the opportunity to lecture President Bill Clinton about the pitfalls of his administration’s education policies.
Pennsylvania’s York County Common Pleas Judge, Todd R. Platts, who succeeded Goodling in the 19th District in 2001, told the York Dispatch his predecessor was a “very devoted father and husband.”
“Our community certainly lost a wonderful servant of the people,” Platts said, adding that Goodling “embodied the finest principles of public service and giving back. It’s a real loss to all of us having lost a quality individual such as Bill.”
Kim Skinner, a Goodling aide from 1990 until his retirement, said her former boss “was like a father figure to everybody.”
“He considered his office family. It was the kind of family where sometimes you want to be in the family, and sometimes you don’t want to be in the family,” she said, laughing.
Goodling’s wife of 50 years, Hilda, died in 2008. He is survived by his two children, Jenni and Todd Goodling.
In an email to the York Daily Record, Jenni Goodling said her father preferred to be “just plain Bill.”
He was a “very humble man who loved people more than anyone I have ever met,” his daughter said, and a “man who made the world a better place on a daily basis.”
This report includes information from CQ’s Politics in America database.