Extended Goodwin family connections run deep
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- U.S. Sen. Carte Goodwin, 36, comes from a family of lawyers and Democrats whose patriarchs got their start through hard work and rose in part with help from Goodwin's new colleague, Sen. Jay Rockefeller.
The well-known branch of the Goodwins descended from Robert B. and Lessie Goodwin.
Bob was elected to the House of Delegates in 1932 at age 21, the youngest ever at the time, according to family legend.
Shortly after World War II, Bob and his brother, C.E. "Bert" Goodwin, who both served in the Navy, came back to Ripley and founded the law firm Goodwin and Goodwin. Bob also served several terms as the mayor of Ripley.
Then Bob died suddenly of a heart attack, leaving Lessie alone with three boys: Joe Bob, the eldest, who was 12 when his father died; Tom; and Steve.
Lessie remarried and headed to Columbus, Ohio, then Kansas City, Mo.
Joe Bob is a federal district court judge for the Southern District of West Virginia
He is married to Kay, the head of the state Department of Education and the Arts. She was first appointed by former Gov. Bob Wise and reselected by Gov. Joe Manchin. Joe Bob and Kay were both drama majors at West Virginia University.
They have one son, Booth, who was recently nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the Senate to serve as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia.
Booth is married to Amy Shuler Goodwin, a public relations specialist at the Goodwin Group. She is a former TV anchor and reporter and chief spokeswoman for Bob Wise when he was governor and for Sen. John Kerry's presidential campaign in the state. The couple has two young sons.
Tom, the second son, was a top official in Rockefeller's administration when he was governor of West Virginia. He is one of the founders at Goodwin and Goodwin, the family firm where he continues to work.
He and his wife Kathryn have two daughters.
Carrie Goodwin Fenwick is a lawyer at Goodwin and Goodwin with her husband, J. David Fenwick. They have three sons.
Carrie and cousin Booth both graduated in 1996 from Washington and Lee School of Law. She graduated magna cum laude
Tom's other daughter is Emily Goodwin Kime (rhymes with "lime"), who is the founder and president of Vail Legal Technologies in Charleston, which does courtroom graphics and video depositions. She is married to Evan Kime, an attorney with Charleston firm Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love. They have a son and twin daughters.
The third brother, the late Steve Goodwin, is Carte Goodwin's father.
Carte gets his distinctive first name from his mother's side. Ellen Gibson Goodwin's grandmother's maiden name was Carte.
Ellen's grandfather, Philip Gibson, was a four-term mayor of Sutton in Braxton County.
Steve, who died in April, was, like his two brothers, a lawyer. He was the 100th president of the West Virginia University Alumni Association and he was on the West Virginia Board of Medicine.
Steven was also the former chairman of the West Virginia University Board of Governors, a position he served in during the controversial selection and eventual resignation of university president Mike Garrison.
Carte has one brother and a sister.
His sister, Aly Goodwin Gregg, is the senior vice president and a principal at Charles Ryan Associates, a regional marketing and public relations firm. Her husband, Patrick Gregg, is the director of communications at WVU's College of Business and Economics, a position he took late last year. The couple has one son.
Carte's brother is T. Ryan Goodwin II, whose first name comes from his uncle Tom. Ryan does banking in Illinois. He is married to Aimee. The couple has a son and a daughter.
Carte is married to Rochelle "Rocky" Goodwin, the state director for Rockefeller. They have a son, Wes, who is nearly 5, and are expecting a daughter in mid-August.
The family is not all Democrats. Carte's second cousin, Carolyn Rader, Ripley's mayor, is a Republican.
But the three Goodwin brothers have a long affiliation with state Democratic politics, especially Joe Bob and Tom.
Tom first came to Rockefeller's eye in 1970 when he was getting his master's at Harvard University. The year before Tom had graduated first in his class at WVU's College of Law.
Rockefeller, who was then West Virginia secretary of state, called Tom to the Rockefeller Center in New York City for an interview. The two met in the office of Rockefeller's grandfather, John David Rockefeller Jr.
Rockefeller wanted Tom to join the secretary of state's staff. Tom turned him down, saying he wanted to practice law for a bit.
Tom has never been sure how he came to Rockefeller's attention.
"I'm not exactly certain how that happened," he said.
After he turned Rockefeller down, Tom headed home.
"I came back to West Virginia with a 1961 Chevrolet and a lot of debt," he said.
Tom and Joe Bob opened Goodwin and Goodwin offices in Charleston and Ripley simultaneously in 1970.
The firm had been given up after their father's death. Their uncle Bert had gone off to take a job with United Fuel Co., a forerunner of Columbia Gas in West Virginia.
Joe Bob and Tom received permission from the Supreme Court's legal ethics committee to print their father's name on the stationary. It was a sentimental act, but Joe Bob once said, "The more crass reason was that it would make us look like we'd been around awhile and had an established operation."
Steve, who was still at WVU law school, came in and helped in the summers before he graduated and came on board fully.
Rockefeller and Tom remained in contact during those years. Tom did legal research for Rockefeller on his unsuccessful campaign to abolish strip mining.
In 1972, the Goodwins were "semi-active" supporters of Rockefeller's failed bid for governor. Part of the reason he lost was his opposition at the time to surface mining, a position he would later change.
When Rockefeller won the 1976 governor's race, Tom was one of the first people to get a top administration job. Tom, then 32, was the tax commissioner at the start of Rockefeller's first term in 1977.
Asked by a reporter at the time what his qualifications were, Tom said, "I'm a lawyer. I am an extremely hard worker. I've handled tax problems." The reporter wrote that Tom then slightly shrugged his shoulders and said, "Well, that's it."
The same reporter said Tom exuded a "cultured brightness" and was calm, confident and careful - the same sorts of thing reporters write today about his nephew, Sen. Goodwin.
In September 1977, Tom said, Rockefeller "brought him down" to the governor's suite on the ground level of the Capitol to be his executive assistant, basically a chief of staff.
In 1980, Tom left the Rockefeller administration and went back to the family firm.
In 1982, Rockefeller wanted Joe Bob to takeover as chairman of the state Democratic Party. That led to one of the hottest political fights in years.
The party chairman that Rockefeller was trying to oust, J.C. Dillon Jr., accused Rockefeller of trying to control the party.
"It is now clear that Gov. Rockefeller is trying to take control of the entire apparatus of the Democratic Party in order to create a dynasty in West Virginia politics," Dillon said at the time.
Tom said this week that was "a little bit of hyperbole."
Rockefeller at the time dismissed the criticism as the media trying to liven up a quiet summer. But he fought hard, making surprise helicopter visits to party committee members before the vote, according to a report at the time.
Joe Bob easily won the vote in July 1982 and became party chairman.
The brothers continued to build the law practice before Rockefeller picked Joe Bob to become a federal district court judge after Bill Clinton had come into the White House. Tom, who has stayed out of public service since his time in the Rockefeller administration, remained.
Tom attributes the family's success to mostly hard work with a little bit of help along the way - help the Goodwins have shown to others as well.
"These things aren't just flukes," Tom said. "They came about as we've worked hard in whatever jobs we've been in."
He dismissed the criticism that the Goodwins were a bunch of elites who got their jobs because of nepotism.
"My mother left here with three little boys to try to make a living," Tom recalled.
Carte himself grew up in Mount Alto in Jackson County, received an undergraduate philosophy degree from Marietta College in 1996 and a law degree in 1999 from the Emory University School of Law, where he was a member of the law review.
In the Manchin administration, Carte was known for days after days of hard work and nearly endless nights.
After he left the administration, he took a job - like his father and grandfather - at Goodwin and Goodwin.
But he stayed busy most of the year leading a judicial reform panel Manchin organized.
Goodwin, who is now serving as senator until the state can hold an election, is facing questions about whether he can be his own man or whether or not he is somehow beholden to either Manchin or Rockefeller.
Both Manchin and Carte said they had disagreements, although they were unable to cite many.
But those who have worked with or know the new senator dismiss the idea that he might not make his own calls in the Senate.
Norman Greene, a New York lawyer and judicial reform advocate who appeared before the judicial reform panel, said Carte "oversaw the development of an excellent report."
"He should be a strong, capable and independent voice for the people of the state of West Virginia as their new temporary senator," Greene said.
Carte's uncle Tom said it shouldn't be something people are worried about.
"Carte is an independent thinker whenever he makes up his mind," he said.
When Carte was asked about his positions on issues, he said he would have to roll up his sleeves and delve in. Asked about his family during the press conference announcing his appointment, he replied, "There's no such thing as an elite from Mt. Alto, W.Va."
Contact writer Ry Rivard at email@example.com or 304-348-1796.