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HomeNewsLocal newsSocial Justice Advocate, Sportsman, Civil Servant, Businessman and Leader: George Goodwin dies...

Social Justice Advocate, Sportsman, Civil Servant, Businessman and Leader: George Goodwin dies at 81

George Goodwin captured while serving others at a Thanksgiving meal program. (Source file photo)

Former Virgin Islands lawmaker George Goodwin is being remembered as someone who made a difference in the lives of people who came to the territory as immigrants in the 1960s and 1970s. Goodwin passed away this week, a few days short of his 82nd birthday.

Born in Antigua on Sept. 15, 1941, Goodwin came to the Virgin Islands at a time when newcomers from other Eastern Caribbean islands faced challenges establishing themselves. He attended the then-College of the Virgin Islands as a young man and earned an associate’s degree in 1968.

Over the next several years, Goodwin set up a bookkeeping business, promoted the game of cricket, and pursued further higher education. Those who sponsored a commendation for him in the Legislature earlier this year called cricket a unifying pastime that brought communities together in the territory.

Up until the early 1970s, the children of immigrant families could not enroll in the Virgin Islands public school system. Through participation in a social justice group called the Alien Interest Movement, Goodwin and others sued then-Gov. Melvin Evans over the practice in court in the case Hosier v. Evans.

On June 26, 1970, District Judge Almeric Christian issued a judgment saying that children from non-immigrant alien families were entitled to attend public school.

In condolence messages issued upon word of his passing, Gov. Albert Bryan Jr., Lt. Gov. Tregenza Roach and Senate President Novelle Francis Jr. noted the impact of this historic action.

“During his time as a senator, George Goodwin left an indelible mark on our islands, working tirelessly to address the needs and concerns of our residents and played a crucial role in advocating for the rights of marginalized individuals during a challenging period in our territory’s history. Through his tireless efforts as part of the Alien Interest Movement, he brought about significant changes in the status of many immigrants, granting them the recognition and respect they deserved as permanent residents. His advocacy work was invaluable, creating a positive shift in our society,” Bryan said.

“During the era of the 1960s, Mr. Goodwin emerged at a turbulent time in our history as an advocate for those who many times envisioned themselves as having no rights before the law. His name became synonymous with the Alien Interest Movement, which fought for the rights of this immigrant group and was also instrumental in seeing many change their status as non-immigrant aliens to permanent residents of the territory,” Roach said.

Francis said he was pleased that members of the 35th Legislature sponsored and passed a bill commending Goodwin for his advocacy and his many acts of public service. “His legacy in this territory will remain as one who stood for equality for the underserved and whose efforts were the catalyst for the landmark decision that all children residing in the territory, regardless of the place of their birth, were entitled to a public education,” Francis said in a statement issued Tuesday.

Former Senate President and former Education Commissioner Donna Frett-Gregory praised Goodwin as “a true public servant.”

“He worked at the Department of Finance, served as the GERS administrator, Chief of Staff for Lt. Governor G. Luz James, and advisor to Governor Charles Turnbull. Mr. Goodwin also served admirably in the 20th and 23rd Legislatures, where he continued to advocate for immigrants and for those disadvantaged members of the Virgin Islands community,” Frett-Gregory said.

Senator-at-Large Angel Bolques praised Goodwin as one who worked tirelessly for the betterment of others. And the lawmaker who sponsored Bill No. 35-0006 — renaming the cricket field in Estate Nazareth, St. Thomas after Goodwin — extended a personal sentiment.

“He was my mentor, a man for all people, and he will be truly missed,” said Sen. Carla Joseph. “He was a pillar and stalwart of the V.I. Democratic Party and dynamic political strategist.”

“Senator Goodwin championed social justice for all in the Virgin Islands. His work for social justice did not begin when he served as senator. It started before his career in public service as a humble, caring, and compassionate citizen who wanted the best for his fellow citizens in the territory,” Joseph said.

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