Cover photo for Richard N. Goodwin's Obituary
Richard N. Goodwin Profile Photo

Richard N. Goodwin

b. December 7, 1931

Richard "Dick" Naradof Goodwin was an author, playwright, and former political advisor and White House speechwriter to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, and to Senator Robert F. Kennedy, died peacefully after a brief bout with cancer on Sunday evening May 20th at his home, surrounded by his family and friends. He was 86.

Mr. Goodwin crafted what are widely considered to be some of the greatest and most influential presidential speeches in American history, including Lyndon Johnson's civil rights "We Shall Overcome" and Great Society speeches, John F. Kennedy's Latin American speeches, and Robert Kennedy's "ripple of hope" speech in South Africa in 1966.

Mr. Goodwin was the author of four books including The American Condition, Promises To Keep: A Call For A New American Revolution and his memoir, Remembering America: A Voice From The Sixties, which was re-released in e-book format in July 2014. Remembering America is an inspiring history that evokes the hopes, dreams and ideals of an extraordinary and turbulent decade.

In Remembering America, Mr. Goodwin chronicled his experience as special counsel to the Legislative Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives, during which he conducted the now well-known investigation of the Twenty One Quiz Show scandal. His story was the basis for Robert Redford's 1994 film, Quiz Show and he was portrayed by the Golden Globe® Award-winning actor Rob Morrow. Quiz Show was nominated for four Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, and four Golden Globe® Awards.

Mr. Goodwin authored a play, many articles for The New Yorker and Rolling Stone and numerous editorials for The New York Times, The Boston Globe and the Los Angeles Times, among others. He was often called upon to offer reflections and analysis for documentaries, articles and books about the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations.

His play The Hinge of the World is a riveting drama about the confrontation between Galileo Galilei and Pope Urban VIII, which was published by Farrar Straus & Giroux, and performed as a theatrical production internationally at the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre in Guildford, England, and at the Huntington Theatre in Boston, where it was retitled Two Men of Florence. The play has been adapted by screenwriter Alyssa Hill for a feature film currently in development at Warner Bros.-based Gulfstream Pictures.

Mr. Goodwin graduated summa cum laude from Tufts University and Harvard Law School. He was the recipient of Harvard Law School's prestigious Fay Diploma. Mr. Goodwin served as a Law Clerk to United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Felix Frankfurter, before being appointed as special counsel to the Legislative Oversight Subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Mr. Goodwin, at the age of just 29, entered the White House as an aide to President John F. Kennedy, having first travelled with then-presidential candidate Kennedy and writing speeches for his campaign. After Kennedy's election, Mr. Goodwin served as Assistant Special Counsel to the President and as a key specialist on President Kennedy's Task Force on Latin-American affairs, originating the Alliance for Progress and meeting in secret with Che Guevara in Uruguay in August 1961. Mr. Goodwin also served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, and was Secretary-General of the International Peace Corps.

After President Kennedy's assassination, Mr. Goodwin served as the Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson, where he formulated the concept of the Great Society and drafted many of President Johnson's major addresses and messages dealing with civil rights. President Johnson asked Mr. Goodwin to write his historic 1965 civil rights speech, which came to be known as the "We Shall Overcome" speech that President Johnson delivered on March 15, 1965 to the joint session of the United States Congress. This speech was the cornerstone of progress for voting rights and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that President Johnson signed five months later.

The "archetypal New Frontiersman" is how Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. described in Mr. Goodwin in his book A Thousand Days. "Goodwin was the supreme generalist who could turn from Latin America to saving the Nile Monuments, from civil rights to planning a White House dinner for the Nobel Prize winners, from composing a parody of Norman Mailer to drafting a piece of legislation, from lunching with a Supreme Court Justice to dining with Jean Seberg -- and at the same time retain an unquenchable spirit of sardonic liberalism and unceasing drive to get things done."

Mr. Goodwin resigned from the White House in 1966, joining the U.S. Anti-War Movement. He briefly directed Eugene McCarthy's presidential campaign in New Hampshire and Wisconsin, and wrote speeches for presidential candidate Edmund S. Muskie, before joining Senator Robert F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. Mr. Goodwin was with Senator Kennedy in Los Angeles when he was killed in 1968. Mr. Goodwin helped craft Vice President Al Gore's presidential concession speech in 2000.

Mr. Goodwin was the recipient of many awards and honors, including the John F. Kennedy Library Distinguished American honor, the Aspen Institute's Public Leadership Award, and honorary degrees from Tufts University, UMass Lowell and Hebrew Union College.

Mr. Goodwin was at work on his next book. He lived in Concord, Massachusetts, with his wife of 42 years, the presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Doris Kearns Goodwin, with whom he has two sons, Michael and Joseph. Mr. Goodwin has a son Richard from a previous marriage. The Goodwins have two granddaughters, Willa and Lena.

Family and friends will gather to honor and remember Mr. Goodwin on Friday, June 15th, at 12pm at the First Parish in Concord, 20 Lexington Road, Concord, MA

Concord's town flag will fly at half-staff on Friday, June 15th in honor of Mr. Goodwin's service to his country in the United States Army.

In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made in Mr. Goodwin's name to:
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute to support head and neck research and care,
10 Brookline Place West, 6th Floor
Brookline, MA 02445
or online at

BOSTON GLOBE - May 21, 2018

NEW YORK TIMES - May 21, 2018


News Journalist Brian Williams MSNBC Tribute:

Service Schedule

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Memorial Service

Friday, June 15, 2018

Starts at 12:00 pm (Eastern time)


20 Lexington Rd, Concord, MA 01742

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