Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970

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Government official, governor; interviewees are married.

From the description of Reminiscences of Goodwin J. Knight and Virginia Knight : oral history, 1967. (Columbia University In the City of New York). WorldCat record id: 122574582

Paul Mason was a leading expert on parliamentary procedure and the author of Mason's Manual. He was Governor Goodwin Knight's legislative secretary and served as Director of Motor Vehicles in his administration. He was, more importantly, Knight's most valued political advisor.

From the description of Goodwin Knight correspondence with Paul Mason, 1943-1970. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 754865082

Biographical Note

Goodwin Jess Knight, born 9 December 1896 in Provo, Utah, received his A.B. degree in law from Stanford in 1919 and was admitted to the California Bar in March 1921. In 1935 he was appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court, in 1946 he became Lieutenant Governor of California, and in 1954 he was elected Governor. Knight died 22 May 1970.

From the guide to the Goodwin J. (Goodwin Jess) Knight Papers, 1896-1988 (inclusive), 1946-1970 (bulk), (Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.)

Biography

Governor Goodwin Jess Knight was unique among California's chief executive when he took office in 1953. He had served in all three branches of government, serving first as a superior court judge, and then presiding over the State Senate while being Lieutenant Governor. Knight was born December 9, 1896, in Provo, Utah. His father Jesse Knight, a lawyer and mining engineer, and mother Lillie Milner Knight, a concert singer and a suffragist, moved their family to Los Angeles in 1904.

Knight showed various talents as a child. On his 13th birthday in 1909, he completed a book of fiction that was published as Good's Budget. His political career began a year later when he helped support the campaign of Progressive Hiram Johnson for governor by handing out leaflets for the candidate. As a child, Knight often skipped school to hear the great orators of the day when they came to California. These speakers included William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson, Hiram Johnson, William Howard Taft, and Theodore Roosevelt. Later, in his political career, public speaking would become one of his greatest strength.

In high school, Knight began to exhibit his leadership skills. He was elected student body president as a junior at Manual Arts High School in Los Angeles. Also in his class were General Jimmy Doolittle, Frank Capra, and opera singer Lawrence Tibbetts. His yearbook predicted that he would someday serve as governor - of New York.

Upon graduation, Goodie, as he was commonly known, went to work as a miner in southern Nevada. Once he had saved enough money, he entered Stanford University. Knight would continue working in mines during his college summer breaks. His college graduation was delayed for one year when he entered the Navy during World War I. After receiving his A.B. from Stanford in June 1919, he received the Telluride scholarship at Cornell, where he studied the law and political science.

Once back in California he was admitted to the bar and opened his own law practice in 1921. In 1925, he formed two partnerships. He married Arvilla Cooley, with whom he had two daughters, Marilyn and Carolyn, and he formed a law practice with Thomas Reynolds. Their practice grew rapidly and within a few years was one of the largest in California. In the early 1930s, he purchased gold mines in Kern County that became very profitable after a rise in the gold standard.

In the 1930s, his interest in politics increased. He was an enthusiastic supporter of Frank Merriam's successful campaign for governor in 1934. That same year he delivered the keynote address to the State Republican Convention. His support for Merriam led him to be appointed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court bench in 1935. On the bench, Knight became known as the Hollywood divorce judge because of the many high profile cases that came through his court. During his years as a judge, he also hosted radio programs in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In 1946, Knight ran for statewide office for the first time. He defeated State Senator Jack Shelley in the race for lieutenant governor. During this campaign, he employed the campaign management firm of Whitaker and Baxter. Whitaker and Baxter were a highly successful husband and wife team who Knight would later use in campaigns for governor and the U.S. Senate. Knight was re-elected in 1950 as the Lieutenant Governor, winning in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.

After Governor Earl Warren stated in September 1953 that he would not pursue a fourth term, Knight announced he would seek the Republican nomination in 1954. Knight already had experience as the governor serving over 400 days as Acting Governor while Lieutenant Governor. However, Knight had only to wait less than one month before becoming governor. In October 1953, Warren accepted President Eisenhower's appointment as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. On October 5, 1953, Knight was sworn in as the 31st governor of the 31st state in the Union. Knight strongly believed that he was continuing Warren's term and for that reason retained most of Warren's appointees and policies.

Beginning in the late 1940s, many of the more conservative Republicans in the state began to promote Knight as a potential gubernatorial candidate. These Republicans felt that Warren, although a Republican, was too liberal in many of his social policies. During his gubernatorial administration, Knight surprised many of these previous supporters by continuing and even expanding most of Warren social policies, such as mental health care modernization, increased payments of unemployment insurance, and juvenile delinquency reform.

Upon taking office, Governor Knight cited his immediate goals as continuing construction of highways and freeways, maintenance of state institutions, protection of state industry, and smog control. One of the few administrative changes that he made was naming John Pierce as Director of Finance for the retiring James Dean.

Sadly, Knight's first wife Arvilla died in 1952, before he took office as governor. However, he became the first California governor to marry while in office when he wed Virginia Carlson, a widow of a World War II veteran, in 1954. She was a constant companion who traveled throughout the state with her husband.

During the first year of Knight's administration, he created an alcoholic beverage control department, increased the weekly unemployment insurance payment, and prepared a fiscally sound state budget. The rapidly increasing population of California made balancing budgets increasingly more difficult throughout his administration. Eventually, Knight would use the state's "Rainy Day" reserves to balance the budget and keep up with the long-range state construction projects and planning needed to meet the continuing growth.

In the gubernatorial election of 1954, Knight again hired Whitaker and Baxter. He soundly defeated Democratic candidate Richard Graves, who was executive director of the League of California Cities. His victory came despite the higher proportion of Democratic to Republican voters in California.

One of the most contentious issues during Knight's administration was the development of water resources. Knight was lauded for his efforts to continue the push to build the Feather River Project. However, he was also chastised for his inability to get politicians from northern and southern California to agree on a workable plan for the State Water Project. In 1956, he signed legislation creating the Department of Water Resources, although the special session of the legislature he called in 1957 for water development did not lead to a compromise by the legislature to get through a bill for funding the Feather River Project.

Knight's administration had numerous successes. Most of these revolved around the state's efforts to keep up with the fantastic population growth of the 1950s. In the 1950s, California's population grew at a rate of over 1,500 new residents every day. California absorbed the new population while providing necessary governmental services. During Knight's administration, the state enjoyed a period of near full employment with a high standard of living. Knight was able to promote California as a location for industries throughout the nation to move, while also enjoying excellent relations with the state's labor leaders.

He also called special citizens committees and Governor's Conferences to examine problems faced by the state. Some of these committees and conferences dealt with air pollution and smog, juvenile delinquency, children and youth, and mental health. His term was also notable for the improvement in prison conditions.

Knight's five years in office were also marked by numerous clashes with prominent California Republicans. During the 1950s, California produced four powerful and nationally known politicians. These four Republicans were Knight, Vice President Richard Nixon, U.S. Senator and leader of the Senate Republicans William Knowland, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren. Through the 1950s, Knight, Knowland, and Nixon waged various power struggles for control of California's Republican Party.

The first of these fights took place in 1954 at the State Republican Convention when a Nixon-backed candidate challenged a Knight loyalist for the assistant chairmanship. Knight won this battle with the help of Knowland, although the rift between Knight and Nixon would never really be repaired. At the 1956 Republican National Convention in San Francisco, Knight believed he would lead California's 70 delegates and possibly head a native son campaign. However, after some negotiations the delegates were split three ways with Nixon, Knowland, and Knight, each controlling 23 delegates and U.S. Senator Thomas Kuchel serving as the 70th delegate.

In 1958, Knight took part in one of the more complicated and misguided political decisions in California history. Knight announced he would seek re-election as governor in August 1957; however, he was not the only prominent Republic to seek this office. William Knowland announced shortly thereafter that he would leave his position as a U.S. Senator and run for governor. Knowland planned to use the California governorship as stepping stone for a run as President in 1960. As a bid for party unity and possibly from pressure from outside political forces, Knight stepped aside and decided to run instead for Knowland's Senate seat. The "Big Switch" was not successful for either candidate, with Pat Brown defeating Knowland for Governor and Knight losing to Clair Engle in the Senate race. These campaigns marked a change in the political landscape of California, with the emergence of the Democratic Party as the major political party in the state.

After leaving office, Knight continued to be involved with politics. He worked as a political commentator for a television station in Los Angeles. He also opened his own insurance company. In 1961, he declared that he would again run for governor, although he soon contracted hepatitis and was forced to leave the race.

Governor Goodwin Knight died on May 22, 1970, and is buried at the Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier, California.

From the guide to the Goodwin J. Knight Papers, 1953-1959, (California State Archives)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interviews with Caspar Weinberger
referencedIn William A. Burkett papers, 1916-2000 Bancroft Library
creatorOf Goodwin J. (Goodwin Jess) Knight Papers, 1896-1988 (inclusive), 1946-1970 (bulk) Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Knight, Goodwin J. (Goodwin Jess),. Goodwin J. Knight papers, 1896-1988 (bulk 1946-1970). Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Baxter, Leone. Mother of political public relations : oral history transcript / Leone Baxter ; interview conducted by Gabrielle Morris, 23 June 1972. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Milton Polland
referencedIn Peirson M. Hall papaers, 1908-1979 The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens Manuscripts Department
creatorOf Schwartz, Milton Harry. Milton Harry Schwartz scrapbooks, [1896-1952]. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Francis Valentine Keesling Papers, 1906-1957 Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970. Reminiscences of Goodwin J. Knight and Virginia Knight : oral history, 1967. Columbia University in the City of New York, Columbia University Libraries
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interviews with Douglas Barrett
referencedIn Henry J. Kaiser, Jr. Papers, 1937-1961 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interviews with George Christopher
referencedIn Leary, Mary Ellen. Collection of press releases and newspaper clippings chiefly concerning California politics and government, 1944-1958. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Harry Finks
referencedIn Caspar W. Weinberger Papers, 1910-2005, (bulk 1951-2005) Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Los Angeles Cloak Joint Board (Los Angeles, (Calif.)). ILGWU. Los Angeles Cloak Joint Board photographs, 1940-1978. Cornell University Library
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interviews with Paul Mason
referencedIn Historical Society of Southern California Collection—California Centennials Commission, Southern California Division, Collection of Photographs, 1948-1950 The Huntington Library
creatorOf Goodwin J. Knight Papers, 1953-1959 California State Archives
creatorOf Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970. Goodwin Knight papers, 1955-1978. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Henry C. Wahl Correspondence, 1948-1970 Bancroft Library
referencedIn Warren, Earl. Earl Warren Papers. 1864-1974. Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Rothschild, Otto. Historical Society of Southern California Collection - California Centennials Commission, Southern California Division, Collection of Photographs [graphic], 1948-1950. Huntington Library, Art Collections & Botanical Gardens
referencedIn Younger, J. Arthur (Jesse Arthur), 1893-1967. J. Arthur Younger papers, 1951-1968. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Dorothy Hewes Bell
referencedIn Rees, Thomas M., 1925-. Oral history interview with Thomas M. Rees, 1987. Transcript. [electronic resource] / by Carlos Vasquez, University of California, Los Angeles for the State Government Oral History Program, California State Archives. OCLC Econtent Synchronization Program
referencedIn Earl Warren papers, 1864-1974 Library of Congress. Manuscript Division
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Goodwin Knight
creatorOf Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970. Goodwin Knight correspondence with Paul Mason, 1943-1970. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Lee, Eugene C.,. Eugene C. Lee collection on Goodwin J. Knight, circa 1954-1955. UC Berkeley Libraries
creatorOf Knight, Goodwin, 1896-1970. Goodwin Jess Knight letter to Mrs. Jeanne Somerville Bernard : Sacramento, Calif. : LS, 1954, December 28. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Tom M. Bright
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Sadie Perlin Groves
referencedIn Knight, Virginia Carlson, 1918-. Documentation for oral history interviews, 1977-1989. UC Berkeley Libraries
referencedIn Wilber M. Brucker Papers, 1877-1968 Bentley Historica Library University of Michigan
referencedIn Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Oral History Collection. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Transcripts. 1962 - 1998. Oral History Interview with Maryalice Lemmon
referencedIn Weinberger, Caspar W. Caspar W. Weinberger papers, 1910-2005 (bulk 1951-2005). Library of Congress
referencedIn Keesling, Francis Valentine, b. 1877. Francis V. Keesling papers, 1906-1957. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
creatorOf Craemer, Justus F. Justus F. Craemer political correspondence : photocopies of TLS, [19??]. California Historical Society
referencedIn Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. Records, 1933-1974 California State Archives
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Ahmanson, Howard, 1906-1968 person
associatedWith Alioto, Joseph. person
associatedWith Anderson, Glenn M. person
associatedWith Arthur, Chester Alan, 1829-1886 person
associatedWith Barrett, Douglas. person
associatedWith Baxter, Leone. person
associatedWith Behrens, Earl C. person
associatedWith Belli, Melvin M., 1907- person
associatedWith Bernard, Jeanne Somerville, person
associatedWith Brand, Harry. person
associatedWith Brennan, Bernard C. person
associatedWith Brown, Edmund G. (Edmund Gerald), 1905- person
associatedWith Brucker, Wilber Marion, 1894-1968 person
associatedWith Burkett, William A. person
associatedWith Burkett, William A. person
associatedWith California Centennials Commission. Southern California Division. corporateBody
associatedWith California State Water Project. corporateBody
associatedWith Christopher, George. person
associatedWith Craemer, Justus F. person
associatedWith Dargan, Vernon C. person
associatedWith Duggan, Tom. person
associatedWith Edgerton, J. Howard. person
associatedWith Edwin, Ed, person
associatedWith Flournoy, Houston I. person
associatedWith Francis Valentine Keesling person
associatedWith Goldwater, Barry M. (Barry Morris), 1909-1998. person
associatedWith Hahn, Gordon R. person
associatedWith Hall, Peirson M. (Peirson Mitchell), 1894-1979 person
associatedWith Hauk, A. Andrew. person
associatedWith Helms, Paul. person
associatedWith International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union. Los Angeles Cloak Joint Board (Los Angeles, (Calif.)) corporateBody
associatedWith John Birch Society. corporateBody
associatedWith Jones, Herbert C. (Herbert Coffin), b. 1881? person
correspondedWith Kaiser, Henry J., 1917-1961 person
associatedWith Kaufman, Herbert C. person
associatedWith Keesling, Francis Valentine, b. 1877. person
associatedWith Kelly, Earl Lee. person
associatedWith Knight, Goodwin J. (Goodwin Jess), person
associatedWith Knight, Virginia. person
associatedWith Knight, Virginia Carlson, 1918- person
associatedWith Knowland, William F. (William Fife), 1908-1974. person
associatedWith Land, Pearl. person
associatedWith Leary, Mary Ellen. person
associatedWith Lee, Eugene C., person
associatedWith Lurie, Louis R. person
associatedWith MacArthur, Douglas, 1880-1964 person
associatedWith Mason, Paul, 1898- person
associatedWith McComb, Marshall. person
associatedWith Milias, George W. person
associatedWith Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994. person
associatedWith Phillips, Patrick Henry. person
associatedWith Polland, Milton R. person
associatedWith Rafferty, Max Lewis, 1917- person
associatedWith Rees, Thomas M., 1925- person
associatedWith Republican Party (Calif.) corporateBody
associatedWith Republican Party (U.S. : 1854- ) corporateBody
associatedWith Schwartz, Milton Harry. person
associatedWith Stanford University. corporateBody
associatedWith Storke, Thomas M. person
associatedWith Thompson, John F. person
correspondedWith Wahl, Henry C. person
correspondedWith Warren, Earl, 1891-1974. person
associatedWith Weinberger, Caspar W. person
associatedWith Weinberger, Caspar W. person
associatedWith Whitaker & Baxter Campaigns, Inc. corporateBody
associatedWith Younger, J. Arthur (Jesse Arthur), 1893-1967. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
California
United States
California
California
California
California
Subject
California. Governor
Governor
Political science--Interviews
Presidents--Election--1952
California--Government and Politics - 1951-
Occupation
Activity

Person

Birth 1896

Death 1970

English

Information

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