Jim Goodrich has always loved to engage people in the history of Missouri. As director of the State Historical Society of Missouri and director of its Western Historical Manuscript Collection at MU, he has delighted in making that history as real today as the day it was made.
Goodrich retired in April at age 64 for medical reasons after almost 19 years leading the society. He was the fifth director in the society’s 106 years.
“During his years at the society, Dr. Goodrich formed close friendships with people from varied backgrounds,” said Lynn Wolf Gentzler, the society’s acting director. “He is at ease with scholars and students, hunters and farmers, civic leaders and legislators.
“He took pleasure in talking with anyone who dropped by to visit, and his visitors left feeling they had enjoyed his undivided attention,” Gentzler said. Goodrich worked to make the society’s data more accessible to the public. His administration saw the inception of the Oral History Program, which collects interviews about Missouri’s history and culture, and the society’s hosting of Missouri’s National History Day program.
“Dr. Goodrich believed that the History Day program, which involves students in grades six to 12 in historical research, was an excellent means of interesting young people in the history of their local area, state and nation,” Gentzler said.
In 1998, Goodrich headed the Centennial Celebration for the society, including organizing two art exhibits featuring the works of George Caleb Bingham and Thomas Hart Benton.
Goodrich also took personal interest in helping others with their historical work. “Jim was always eager to help researchers in their quest for material,” said Gary Kremer, a history professor at William Woods University. “That was just the way he is: generous, thoughtful, always eager to please and help.”
Goodrich also has published several articles for historical journals and encyclopedias and co-edited with Gentzler “Marking Missouri History,” a collection of the society’s historical highway markers and related essays.
Goodrich was educated at Missouri schools, earning his bachelor’s degree from Central Missouri State University in Warrensburg and later a doctorate from MU. He joined the State Historical Society staff in 1967 as associate editor for the Missouri Historical Review before becoming assistant to the director in 1975 and associate director in 1978.
In 2003, Goodrich received the Distinguished Service Award and Medallion at the State Historical Society’s annual meeting, and, more recently, the executive committee has created the James W. Goodrich Fund in his honor.
In a tribute to Goodrich, Bill Foley, professor emeritus of history at Central Missouri State, said, “Suffice it to say, Missourians in general, and Missouri historians in particular, all owe a debt of gratitude to Jim Goodrich for his tireless efforts in their behalf.”