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About Goodwin Jess “Goodie” Knight
Goodwin Jess “Goodie” Knight (December 9, 1896 – May 22, 1970) was a U.S. politician who was the 31st governor of California from 1953 until 1959.
Knight was born in Provo, Utah, but his family moved to Los Angeles when he was a boy. His father, Jess Knight (son of Jesse Knight), was a mining engineer, but Goodwin followed in his mother's (Lille) father's (John B. Milner) footsteps. This grandfather was a judge in Provo, Utah.
Knight attended high school in Los Angeles, at Manual Arts High School. One of his classmates was Jimmy Doolittle. He earned an A.B. in Law and Business from Stanford University, where he was a member of the Stanford Chaparral, in 1919. Knight also attended Cornell University. He served in the U.S. Navy during World War I.
Knight was a judge of the Superior Court in Los Angeles beginning in 1935. He was reelected in 1936 and 1942 without significant opposition. His case load varied from the glamorous to the mundane. He oversaw weddings and divorces for Hollywood starlets.
Political career and governor of California
Knight began his political career in 1944, when he pursued the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate. He bowed out early, though, to back Fred Houser. He was elected as the 35th Lieutenant Governor of California to serve under Governor Earl Warren in 1946 then reelected in 1950. He became governor himself when Warren resigned to become Chief Justice of the United States in 1953.
As governor, Knight fought for control of the Republican Party of California with U.S. Senate Majority Leader William Knowland and Vice President Richard Nixon. In 1954, Knight was easily elected to his own full term. At first Knight seemed to make an alliance with Knowland, but this began to sour in 1956 when Knowland supported Nixon for renomination as vice president. In 1957, Knowland announced that he would challenge Knight in the 1958 Republican primary for governor. Knight, known as a moderate, and sympathetic to organized labor, faced a serious threat because the Republican Party was growing more conservative. He was induced by Knowland, Nixon, President Dwight Eisenhower, and others to run for Knowland's Senate seat instead of running for governor again. Both Knowland and Knight went down to defeat in 1958, with Knowland losing the gubernatorial race to Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, Sr. and Knight losing the Senate race by over 10% to Clair Engle, severely weakening the California Republicans. This left Nixon in control of the California party and in line for the presidential nomination, which Knowland and Knight had also desired.
Knight was present at the July 17, 1955, opening of Disneyland, and gave a speech following Walt Disney's famous dedication.
In 1964, Knight endorsed Nelson Rockefeller for the Republican nomination against Barry Goldwater. Rockefeller was unsuccessful in stopping Goldwater, the darling of the party's growing conservative wing. Knight never ran for political office again.
Knight's first wife, Arville, died of a heart attack on 29 October 1952; the couple had two daughters. He married Virginia Carlson (born Virginia Piegrue on 12 October 1918 in Fort Dodge, Iowa), the widow of an Army Lieutenant, on 2 August 1954 at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior in Los Angeles. The couple had no children.
Knight died three months after his daughter, Carolyn, committed suicide. Virginia never remarried. She died on 29 November 2010.
Goodwin Knight, Governor's Timeline
December 9, 1896
Provo, Utah, Utah
August 2, 1954
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
May 22, 1970
Los Angeles, Los Angeles, California
Rose Hills Cemetery, Whittier, Los Angeles, Califorinia