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Charles Goodell
United States Senator
from New York

In office
September 10, 1968 – January 3, 1971
Appointed by Nelson Rockefeller
Preceded by Robert F. Kennedy
Succeeded by James L. Buckley
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
January 3, 1963 – September 9, 1968
Preceded by Jessica M. Weis
Succeeded by James F. Hastings
Member of the United States House of Representatives
In office
May 26, 1959 – January 3, 1963
Preceded by Daniel A. Reed
Succeeded by None (District eliminated)
Personal details
Born Charles Ellsworth Goodell
(1926-03-16)March 16, 1926
Jamestown, New York
Died January 21, 1987(1987-01-21) (aged 60)
Washington, D.C.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Jean Rice Goodell
Patricia Goldman Goodell
Children Roger Goodell
Alma mater Williams College
Yale Law School

Charles Ellsworth Goodell (March 16, 1926 – January 21, 1987) was a Republican U.S. Representative and a Senator from New York. In both cases he came into office following the deaths of his predecessors, first in a special election and second as a temporary appointee.

He was elected to four terms in Congress after winning his first race in 1960. He resigned on September 9, 1968, to accept an appointment by Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller to fill the vacancy caused by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Having earned the support of both the Republican and Liberal parties in 1970, he lost in a three-way race to Conservative Party candidate James L. Buckley, having split the liberal vote with Democratic Party candidate Richard Ottinger.

Goodell was the father of National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Early life and education[]

Goodell was born in Jamestown, New York, the son of Francesca (née Bartlett) and Charles Ellsworth Goodell. He attended the public schools of Jamestown and graduated from Williams College (1948). He served in the United States Navy as a Seaman Second Class (1944–46) and in the United States Air Force as a First Lieutenant (1952–53) during the Korean War.

Goodell graduated from Yale Law School (1951) and received a graduate degree from Yale University Graduate School of Government (1952); he was a teacher at Quinnipiac College in New Haven, Connecticut (1952) as well. He was admitted to the Connecticut bar (1951), the New York bar (1954), and began his law practice in Jamestown.

Congressional career[]

Goodell was a congressional liaison assistant for the Department of Justice in 1954–1955. He won a special election on May 26, 1959, as a Republican to the 86th United States Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of Daniel A. Reed. In NY District 43, Goodell polled 27,454 votes (65 percent) to the Democrat Robert E. McCaffery's 14,250 ballots (33.8 percent).[citation needed]

Goodell was re-elected in November 1960 to the 87th Congress, and re-elected three times thereafter. He resigned on September 9, 1968, to accept Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller's appointment to the United States Senate, filling the vacancy caused by the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Because a special election to fill the vacancy would not be held for over two years, public objection to the length of Goodell's appointment led to a failed legal challenge to the Governor's power to appoint Senators in the event of a vacancy, Valenti v. Rockefeller.

Although he had been a moderate to conservative member in the House, as a Senator he was nearly as liberal as New York's other Republican Senator, Jacob K. Javits.[1] In the Senate, Goodell authored and sponsored a large number of bills, including several to provide conservation and development aid to small towns and rural areas. Many small upstate New York communities without municipal sewage systems built them with the aid of federal matching funds provided by Goodell's legislation.[citation needed] He "joined the quasi-pacifist Oregon senator Mark Hatfield as the loudest anti-Vietnam War voices in the Republican Party."[2] Anti-war protesters and activists praised his advocacy of a withdrawal from Vietnam.[3]

In 1970, the New York Republican Party was split deeply over the issue of the conservatism of much of the grassroots support for the party versus the perceived liberalism of the party organization, leadership, and Governor Rockefeller himself.[citation needed] While Rockefeller's supporters were strong enough within the party and its regular organization to assure Goodell's receiving the party's nomination for what would be his first full term, conservative activists left the party en masse to support someone farther to the right. Additionally, then Vice-President Spiro T. Agnew, alluding to Goodell's shift from moderate-conservative Republican to liberal Republican, went so far as to call him the "Christine Jorgensen of the Republican party," analogizing his ideological shift to Jorgensen's highly publicized sex change. Goodell was not discouraged. Running under the slogan "Senator Goodell — He's too good to lose", he received the nomination of the Liberal Party as well as that of the regular Republican organization, an electoral fusion allowed under New York law.

One television ad aired by Goodell's campaign just before election day in 1970 contrasted his record with his two opponents. A voice over the graphics said "New York voters face real choices in this year's Senate election: Congressman Richard Ottinger, the Democratic candidate, who has sponsored two pieces of legislation in six years in the House. Republican Senator Charles Goodell, who has sponsored forty-four major pieces of legislation in twenty-two months in the Senate. Conservative nominee James L. Buckley, who has an economic plan for the nineteenth century. Those are your choices on election day: the light weight; the heavy weight; and the dead weight."

In the November 1970 election, despite Rockefeller's support and that of the Republican and Liberal parties, Goodell split the liberal vote with Ottinger, and was defeated by Conservative Party candidate Buckley. Goodell finished third, with 24.3 percent of the vote.

Goodell would be the last appointed U.S. Senator from New York until 2009, when Kirsten Gillibrand was selected to replace Hillary Clinton, who had been appointed Secretary of State by President Barack Obama.

Life after leaving Congress[]

After leaving Congress, Goodell resumed the practice of law. In the mid-1970s, Goodell served as Vice-Chairman, with former Pennsylvania Governor William Scranton as Chairman, of President Gerald Ford's committee to draft rules for granting amnesty to Vietnam War-era draft evaders and deserters.[4]

Mr. Goodell was a fan of the New England Patriots, whom he was a season ticket holder from 1960 until his death. He was in attendance at Washington, D.C., until his death there on January 21, 1987. He was buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Jamestown.


  • Goodell, Charles E. Political Prisoners in America. New York: Random House, 1973.


External links[]

  • Charles Goodell at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Daniel A. Reed
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 43rd congressional district

District eliminated
Preceded by
Jessica M. Weis
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 38th congressional district

Succeeded by
James F. Hastings
United States Senate
Preceded by
Robert F. Kennedy
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York
Served alongside: Jacob K. Javits
Succeeded by
James L. Buckley

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