Bill Goodling, former GOP congressman for York, Adams counties, dies at 89

Written by Ed Mahon/The York Daily Record | Sep 19, 2017 4:24 AM

In his US capital office in November 2000, Bill Goodling

In his US capital office in November 2000, Bill Goodling said that he liked his office across from the Capitol, especially for its view of the place he had reported to for 26 years to cast thousands of votes on behalf of his constituents.  (Paul Kuehnel)



Bill Goodling, who served 26 years as York County's Republican congressman, has died. He was 89.

Goodling succeeded his father, George, in 1975 to take his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives. The Republican faced few serious opponents over the years, winning 13 consecutive terms. He retired in 2001. 

Born in Loganville on Dec. 5, 1927, Goodling graduated from William Penn High School in York in 1945. He served two years in the U.S. Army and earned degrees from the University of Maryland and Penn State. 

Goodling worked as the school superintendent for the Spring Grove Area School District. His work in Congress often revolved around his lifelong interest in education, at all levels. 

Ralph Hess, 77, was a teenager when he met Goodling. At the time, Goodling was an educator and coach in the South Eastern School District.

After Hess' mother died, Hess' father suffered from debilitating depression. Goodling came to Hess' home multiple times and taught him how to cook.

"If you needed him, he was there," said Hess, who went on to pursue politics himself and became a state senator representing York County.

Hess thinks Goodling took that same approach to all aspects of his life, from classrooms to Congress.

The year that Goodling ran for U.S. House was a brutal one for Republicans nationwide. In August 1974, facing impeachment because of the Watergate scandal, President Richard M. Nixon resigned from office.

Democrats made big gains in Congress the following November.

But Goodling, running as a Republican, won election to Congress, winning with a 5,000-vote margin, according to "Never to be forgotten," a history of York County by York Daily Record Editor James McClure.


Health scare

In May 2010, Goodling suffered a burst aneurysm in his brain. Jenni and Todd Goodling were making arrangements to bring their father home to die.

He was at Hershey Medical Center, having survived surgery, but doctors said he would never walk again. He was on a respirator, and ambulances would take him only if the respirator was removed. Without it, doctors feared he wouldn't make it all the way home.

Jenni and Todd were worried about what would happen if he couldn't do anything for himself. They needed to know what he wanted to do.

Jenni asked him a question on a piece of paper: "Do you want to get better?" It could mean more surgery.

He wrote "yes."

That seemed to be a turning point.

Recovery was slow, but he remained active and engaged in the years following.

Honored by Rotary

It was through the Rotary Club of York that many in York County learned of Goodling's passing Monday. An email from Executive Coordinator Roberta Oberdick to the membership reported that he had passed Sunday. 

In June 2011, Goodling, with his daughter's help, slowly walked to the front of a meeting room to shake the hand of Mike Summers, past president of the Rotary Club of York.

Summers presented the then-83-year-old with the Paul Harris Fellow award, named after the founder of Rotary Club International.

Before this illness, he was a consistent Rotary meeting attendee, Summers said.
Goodling kept his speech brief.

"Mike . . . he told me that we had a tight schedule today," Goodling said. "I said, 'that's all right. I'm not running for anything.'"

Whenever his recovery gets hard, he said then, he looks at photographs of himself just after his surgery, with his head shaven and mouth open, he told Rotarians.

At that time, he was getting around without a walker or crutch, and keeping a busy schedule, even golfing a few weeks earlier in a fundraising tournament.

Nary a hint of trouble

Goodling maintained a squeaky-clean reputation throughout his career. A rare shadow was cast when several members of Congress were called out during the House Bank scandal of 1992. 

Bank rules allowed members to overdraw their accounts, a privilege no ordinary citizen could enjoy. Goodling initially insisted he had never overdrawn his account. It turned out, however, that he had 430 overdrafts totaling $188,000, among the most of any House members. 

That fall, Goodling faced a fight from Democrat Paul Kilker and independent Tom Humbert. He prevailed, but was noticeably stung by fierce campaign ads. 


Arrangements are being handled by the Etzweiler Funeral home and will be made public once completed, according to a news release from the family.

The family asks that memorial contributions be made to the Bill and Hilda Teacher Scholarship Fund and sent in care of Jenni Goodling, 1520 Niles Road, York Pa 17403.

This story is part of a partnership between WITF and the York Daily Record.

Published in Adams County, News, York

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