John Goode (Virginia politician)

John Goode Jr. (May 27, 1829 – July 14, 1909) was a Virginia Democratic politician, lawyer and slaveowner who served in the Virginia House of Delegates representing Bedford County before the American Civil War, for which he voted during the Virginia Secession Convention, then served in the Confederate Congress and on the staff of General Jubal Early during the conflict. After the conflict, he moved to Norfolk, again won election to the House of Delegates, and then represented Virginia's 2nd congressional district for three terms during the postbellum United States House of Representatives and lastly represented Norfolk and was elected chairman of the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1902. Goode also served as the acting Solicitor General of the United States during the presidency of fellow Democrat Grover Cleveland.[1]

John Goode Jr.
John Goode - Brady-Handy.jpg
John Goode Jr. portrait, between 1865 and 1880
3rd Solicitor General of the United States
In office
May 1885 – August 1886
Appointed byGrover Cleveland
Preceded bySamuel F. Phillips
Succeeded byGeorge A. Jenks
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 2nd district
In office
March 4, 1875 – March 3, 1881
Preceded byJames H. Platt, Jr.
Succeeded byJohn F. Dezendorf
Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor
In office
March 4, 1877 – March 3, 1881
Preceded byGilbert C. Walker
Succeeded byJonathan T. Updegraff
Member of the Virginia House of Delegates from Norfolk County
In office
Preceded byW.H.C. Ellis
Succeeded byHenry S. Bowden
Member of the Confederate States House of Representatives from Virginia's 6th district
In office
February 22, 1862 – March 18, 1865
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded byPosition abolished
In office
Preceded byWilliam M. Burwell
Succeeded byJesse S. Burks
Personal details
Born(1829-05-27)May 27, 1829
Bedford County, Virginia
DiedJuly 14, 1909(1909-07-14) (aged 80)
Norfolk, Virginia
Resting placeLongwood Cemetery
Bedford, Virginia
Political partyDemocratic
Alma materEmory and Henry College
Washington and Lee University School of Law
OccupationPolitician, lawyer
Military service
AllegianceConfederate States of America
Branch/serviceConfederate Army
UnitJubal Early's Staff
Battles/warsAmerican Civil War
First Battle of Manassas

Early and family lifeEdit

Goode was born in Liberty, Virginia, the county seat of Bedford County, Virginia and which was renamed Bedford during his lifetime. The firstborn son of plantation owner John Goode (1796-1876) and his wife, the former Ann Leftwich, would have several younger brothers and sisters.[2] His paternal grandfather, Edmund Goode, had fought in the American Revolutionary War, then moved from Caroline County westward to the Peaks of Otter area of what became Bedford County. His maternal great grandfather, Joel Leftwich had fought in the American Revolutionary War and War of 1812, rising to the rank of General.[3] He received a private education suitable to his class, attended the New London Academy and graduated from Emory & Henry College in 1848, then studied law at what became Washington and Lee University School of Law under Judge John Brockenbrough.[4][5]

On July 10, 1855, on the Isle of Wight, Goode married Sally Urquehart (1832-1890), a physician's daughter from Southampton County, and by 1870 their family included two sons, Richard (b. 1858) and John Breckinridge Goode (1864-1917), and a daughter Mary (b. 1856).[6][7] By 1880, their household also included the boy who would become their longest surviving child, James Urquhart Goode (1873-1944), as well as three Black servants--butler, nurse and cook.

Early careerEdit

Admitted to the bar in 1851, Goode lived with his parents on a plantation with 39 enslaved individuals in its workforce,[8][9] as well as started a private legal practice and his political career. That same year, Bedford voters elected Goode a member of the Virginia House of Delegates, but he only served one term.[10] By the 1860 census, the younger Goode owned several enslaved individuals.[11][12]

Civil WarEdit

With the impending dissolution of the United States in 1861, Bedford County voters elected Goode to the Virginia secession convention, alongside former Congressman William L. Goggin, who had represented Bedford County years earlier in the House of Delegates, then in the U.S. House of Representatives for most of the decade between 1839 and 1849.[13] That convention passed the Ordinance of Secession in April, and voters ratified it in May, following a meeting with orations by Goode, Goggin, James F. Johnson (who would become the Virginia Senate's president pro tempore 1861-1865), and William M. Burwell.[14]

Goode then volunteered to fight, joining Company A of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry as a private on May 11, 1861, as did Dr. Reginald H. Goode (the company's assistant surgeon) and Pvt. Thomas R. Goode under the command of Capt. William R. Terry (a VMI graduate who would later be promoted to General).[15] Goode then took leave to continue to participate in the Secession Convention as it established an alternate government for Virginia through June. Cavalryman Goode fought at the First Battle of Manassas on July 21, 1861.[16] Bedford County voters then elected Goode to both the First Confederate Congress and the Second Confederate Congress, and he served from February 22 1862, until the war's end. During the recesses of that body, he acted as volunteer aide on the staff of Maj. Gen. Jubal A. Early, a fellow lawyer and Secession Convention delegate from nearby Franklin County, first from October 5, 1861 through December 1862, and again in 1864.[17][18]

Postwar politics and lawEdit

After the war, Goode resumed his law practice, but moved to the state's Hampton Roads area by 1867. Like many high-ranking ex-Confederates, Goode had his civil rights restored under the provisions of Section 3 of the Fourteenth Amendment. After W.H.C. Ellis resigned in early 1866, Goode and A.F. Leonard came to represent the city of Norfolk in the state House of Delegates for the December 1866 and March-April 1867 sessions.[19] However, Norfolk voters replaced Goode and Leonard with the Radical Republicans Henry S. Bowden and A.S. Segar in 1869.[20] Nonetheless, he became the primary speaker at the 1875 dedication of a monument for Confederate war dead in Bedford, assisted by W.W. Berry (although the monument was later relocated from Piedmont hill to Longwood cemetery).[21]

Goode continued his legal practice in Norfolk, and came to practice law in Washington, D.C., after his election to Congress as discussed below.[22] He also became a member of the boards of visitors of the University of Virginia, William and Mary College, and the Virginia Agriculture and Mechanical College.[23] He also wrote a memoir of his life, "Recollections of a Lifetime".[24]


In 1875, Goode defeated former Vermonter and three-term Republican incumbent James H. Platt Jr. to represent Virginia's 2nd congressional district, thus attended the Forty-fourth United States Congress as a Democrat, and won re-election to the Forty-fifth United States Congress and the Forty-sixth United States Congress, serving from December 6, 1875, until March 3, 1881. He was Chairman of the Committee on Education and Labor during his last two terms. He had defeated Republican businessman John F. Dezendorf in 1878, but lost to Dezendorf in the November 1880 election.

Goode was an active Democrat, and part of what sometimes became known the Staples Organization (a predecessor of the Byrd Organization), serving as a presidential elector in 1852, 1856, and 1884, and attending the Democratic National Conventions of 1868 and 1872.

In May 1885, President Grover Cleveland, a fellow Democrat, appointed Goode as the acting Solicitor General of the United States, and he continued as such until August 1886. During that time, Goode visited British Columbia to represent the United States in an extradition case.[25]

He later served on the United States and Chilean Claims Commission and was President of the Virginia Bar Association in 1898.[26]

1902 Virginia Constitutional ConventionEdit

Although he had long lived in Norfolk and Washington D.C., Goode continued to own property (and have family) in Bedford County, whose voters elected Goode and John Thompson Brown to represent them at the Virginia Constitutional Convention of 1901 and 1902.[27] Fellow delegates unanimously elected Goode the convention's president. In his acceptance speech, before deliberations had begun, Goode (to applause) denounced both Congressional Reconstruction and the Constitutional Convention of 1867-1868, "Congress not only committed a stupendous blunder, but a crime against civilization and Christianity when, against the advice of their wisest leaders, they required the people of Virginia and the South, under the rule of bayonet, to submit to universal negro suffrage."[28] That convention ultimately stripped not only the 1868 state constitution's clauses denouncing rebellion against the United States and explicitly outlawing slavery, it also strictly forbad education of white and colored children in the same school. Disenfranchisement became the subject of much debate; delegate Carter Glass explained how it would inevitably cut 4/5ths of the negro voters. Thus, large sections of the final document restricted voting to war veterans and their sons, property owners who paid at least $1000 in taxes during the previous year, and any man who could give a satisfactory explanation of any portion of the state constitution, as well as allowed the legislature to establish further voting restrictions.[29] Despite pre-convention promises that voters would have a choice of ratifying the final document, the delegates voted to proclaim it as in effect as of July 10, 1902 and never submitted it to voters. Lawyer, former Confederate and Readjuster John S. Wise pursued two federal cases which contested that lack of submission, as well as delegates' intent to disenfranchise colored voters, but federal judges relied on an 1895 case arising out of the South Carolina convention to find they lacked jurisdiction. Supreme Court Justice Brewer elaborated, that in the William Jones case, the U.S. House of Representatives seated his opponent despite complaints, noting "the thing sought to be prohibited has been done and cannot be undone by order of court" so the U.S. Supreme Court declined to get involved.[30] By the 1904 election, fifty percent fewer white and ninety percent fewer black men voted.[31]

Death and legacyEdit

Goode survived his wife by more than a decade. He died at the age of 80 in Norfolk and his remains were buried in Longwood Cemetery in Bedford, Virginia.[32] Goode, a community in Bedford county, was named in his honor.[33]

Electoral historyEdit

  • 1874; Goode was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives defeating Republican James Henry Platt, Jr. and Independent Republican Robert Norton, winning 49.43% of the vote.
  • 1876; Goode was re-elected defeating Republican Joseph Segar, winning 52.97% of the vote.
  • 1878; Goode was re-elected defeating Republican John Frederick Dezendorf, winning 56.73% of the vote.


  1. ^ Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia (1915) available on
  2. ^ 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Northern Division, Bedford County p.
  3. ^ John Goode Sons of the American Revolution application, available at p. 391 of 550 on
  4. ^ Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia (1915), available on
  5. ^ Jeter pp. 132-133
  6. ^ 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Northern Division, Bedford County, family 1069 on p. 9 of 11
  7. ^ 1870 U.S. Federal Census for Norfolk Ward 2, Norfolk, Virginia, Family No. 1119 on p. 124 of 131.
  8. ^ 1850 U.S. Federal Census, slave schedule for Northern Division, Bedford County, p. 47 of 66
  9. ^ The same man may also have owned 6 enslaved blacks in nearby Botetourt County, per 1860 U.S. Federal Census for Western Division, Botetourt County, Virginia p. 1 of 45
  10. ^ Cynthia Miller Leonard, Virginia General Assembly 1618-1978 (Richmond: Virginia State Library 1978) p. 448
  11. ^ 1860 U.S. Federal Census, slave schedule for Northern Division, Bedford County, pp. 16 (probably John Goode Sr.), 30 (John Goode of Pineville) or 68 (Jno Goode Sr of Pineville) of 68
  12. ^ 1860 U.S. Federal Census, slave schedule for Liberty, Bedford County, Virginia p. 3 of 4 shows Jno. Goode Jr. owning males aged 55 and 22, females aged 31, 28, 25 and 15 and a one year old girl.
  13. ^ Leonard pp. xxv, 474
  14. ^ Lula Jeter Parker and Peter Viemeister(ed.), Parker's History of Bedford County, Virginia (Bedford, Virginia: Hamilton's 1988 isbn 0-9608598) p. 18
  15. ^ Robert J. Driver, Jr., 2nd Virginia Cavalry (Virginia Regimental History Series) (H.E. Howard Inc., 1995) p. 222
  16. ^ Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia (1915) available on
  17. ^ Appleton's Cyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 678
  18. ^ Driver p. 222
  19. ^ Leonard p. 501 and note 4
  20. ^ Leonard p. 509
  21. ^ Parker p. 47
  22. ^ Appleton's Cyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 678
  23. ^ Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia (1915), available on
  24. ^ Parker p. 127
  25. ^ Appleton's Cyclopedia, vol. 2, p. 678
  26. ^ Virginia Biographical Encyclopedia (1915) available on
  27. ^ Leonard p. 573
  28. ^ Brent Tarter, The Grandees of Government (University of Virginia Press 2013) p. 265, citing Report of the Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention State of Virginia Held in the City of Richmond June 12, 1901 to June 26, 1902, pp. 19-20
  29. ^ Tarter pp. 266-267
  30. ^ Tarter p. 270 citing Jones v. Montague, in wikisource 194 U.S. Reports 147-153 (1904)(quotation on p. 153) and Selden v. Montague, reported 194 U.S. Reports 153
  31. ^ Tarter p. 268
  32. ^ see Archived 2011-05-28 at the Wayback Machine
  33. ^ Jeter p. 28
  •   This article incorporates public domain material from the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress website
  •   This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Office of the Solicitor General.
  • United States Congress. "John Goode (id: G000277)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved on 2009-04-21
Legal offices
Preceded by
Samuel F. Phillips
Solicitor General of the United States
Succeeded by
George A. Jenks
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
James H. Platt, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Virginia's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
John F. Dezendorf
Political offices
Preceded by
Gilbert C. Walker
Chairman of House Education and Labor Committee
Succeeded by
Jonathan T. Updegraff