Former York County Congressman Bill Goodling dies at 89

Jason Addy
York Dispatch

Former U.S. Rep. Bill Goodling, who served York County for more than a quarter century, has died. He was 89.

After being elected in 1974 to replace his father, George Goodling, in Congress, Goodling spent 26 years as York County’s representative in Washington.

Throughout his career, Goodling was known for his passion and work in education, serving as a guidance counselor and Spring Grove Area School District superintendent before leaving for Congress, where he would chair the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

“The community has lost one of our major advocates for education,” said Diane Hershey, president of the Rotary Club of York, where Goodling had been an honorary member since 2000.


With his passion and dedication for education and youth, Goodling made a difference in the lives of many, Hershey said, noting the various scholarships set up in Goodling’s name.

‘Wonderful servant’: A “very devoted father and husband” to his family, Goodling will long be remembered throughout York County as the ultimate public servant, said York County Common Pleas Judge Todd Platts, who succeeded Goodling as York County’s representative.

Goodling retired from the U.S. Congress in 2001 after 13 terms in office. 

More:Bill Goodling memorial planned Sept. 29


“Our community certainly lost a wonderful servant of the people,” Platts said. With his 50 years of public service — 24 in education and 26 in Congress — Goodling “embodied the finest principles of public service and giving back. It’s a real loss to all of us having lost a quality individual such as Bill.”

Platts said he expects Goodling will be fondly remembered thanks to his hands-on approach to governing, his devotion to “making a difference” and never losing sight of “those he was trusted to serve and represent.”


'Straight shooter': Goodling was elected to Congress in November 1974, less than three months after President Richard Nixon resigned from office in the wake of the Watergate scandal.

During Goodling’s initial campaign, there was an intense focus on changing the culture of Washington, D.C., which Goodling exemplified by refusing to accept donations from special interests and by staying grounded in his duties and responsibilities, Platts said.

Platts, who represented York County in Congress from 2001 to 2013, called Goodling “a very positive role model” who conducted himself in a “statesmanlike, responsible manner.”

“He stayed true to the values of central Pennsylvania and (stayed) connected to the people,” Platts said, adding that Goodling spent most nights in his home district instead of the nation’s capital. 

This photo taken by Rep. Scott Perry's staff shows former Congressman Bill Goodling's portrait hanging in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing room in Washington, D.C. Monday, Sept. 18, 2017.

Upon arriving in Washington in January 2001, Platts said he quickly came to understand Goodling’s reputation among his former colleagues as being a “straight shooter” who just wanted to “get good policy enacted.”

Platts said Goodling had “a willingness to work across the aisle to do the right thing” — something that’s missing in the nation’s capital today. 

One of Goodling’s major pieces of legislation, the Even Start Program, was unpopular among many of his fellow Republicans, but Goodling forged on because it was the right thing to do, Platts said. 

The Even Start Program provides literacy training for parents so they can be better resources for their children’s education. 

“Bill, through his actions, tried to always lead by example,” Platts said.

In a statement Monday, Sept. 18, U.S. Rep. Scott Perry, R-Dillsburg, shared a photo of Goodling’s full-length portrait that still hangs in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce hearing room where he chaired proceedings for four years.


Calling Goodling “a tireless champion of strengthening educational opportunities for everyone,” Perry said he was “deeply saddened” to hear of Goodling’s death and offered his condolences to Goodling’s family.

“We lost a great man and public servant today,” Perry said.