As a network news reporter, Malvin Russell Goode (1908–1995) was the first African American to hold a regular on-air job in the journalism field. He started out in radio news in Pittsburgh before he was hired by ABC television to cover the United Nations in New York City. The move made his career. He stayed in this post for 20 years, inspiring other journalists to follow in his footsteps. He covered civil rights marches and brought civil rights issues to the public eye. He was praised by other journalists as an honest reporter, and he showed a professionalism that impressed everyone he met.
Humble Beginnings in Pennsylvania
Goode was born on February 13, 1908, in White Plains, Virginia, but his family moved to Homestead, Pennsylvania, near Pittsburgh when he was very young. He was the third of four boys and two girls: James, William, Mary, Allan, and Ruth. His grandparents had once been slaves, and their history informed Goode's entire family life, giving them ambition and determination. His mother went to West Virginia State University. A great proponent of education, she stressed its importance to her children. Goode would remember these lessons for the rest of his life as can be seen by his determination and his interest in events that affected the world.
His father had very little education, but was a hard worker and stressed to his children the importance of finding work and being as good as possible at it. Goode's father worked at the Carnegie Steel Company and eventually moved up to the highest position a black man could have at that time in the company—that of first helper in the open hearth. When World War I ended, he opened a fish and poultry business. Along with the lessons Goode learned from his mother, he added to that the lessons his father taught him, those of hard work and industriousness. Goode often credited this beginning with his success throughout his life.
Started Out in a Steel Mill
Goode grew up and attended school in Homestead, Pennsylvania. During high school he got a job working nights at the steel mill where his father worked, and he continued working there throughout his college years at the University of Pittsburgh. He earned a bachelor of arts degree in 1931, but he continued his steel mill job after graduation, staying there until 1936 because jobs were hard to find during the Great Depression. He felt his luck at having such a good job, and spent time putting aside money for the future.
In 1936 Goode managed to get a different job, this time as a probation officer for Pittsburgh's juvenile court. He also worked as a director of boys' works at the Pittsburgh Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). At that time the YMCA offered many inspirational and popular programs for urban children and for the community at large. Goode worked hard to rid the YMCA of some of its discrimination, which was rampant at the time, and he had some success in his endeavors. Sometime in the 1940s Goode took on the position of manager at the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, where he stayed for six years.
Entered Field of Journalism
It was not until 1948, when Goode was 40 years old, that he began a career in journalism, although it was something he had long considered. He was offered a job at the Pittsburgh Courier, Pittsburgh's premiere African-American newspaper. At that time the Courier was the most popular and bestselling paper of its type in the United States. Goode then decided to try his hand at some another form of broadcasting, moving over to include radio broadcasts in his working life. He began with a 15-minute news show for the station KQV.
It seemed he had found his calling, for he not only enjoyed the work, he was also good at it. From this one small radio job Goode moved to the station WHOD to do a daily five-minute broadcast, a consistent job that allowed Goode to gain much experience in the world of broadcasting. This was expanded into a full-blown news show that Goode took on with his sister Mary. He became the news director of WHOD radio station in 1952. He had not, however, lost his love of print journalism, and he kept his job at the Courier, later becoming the first African-American member of the National Association of Radio and Television News Directors.
First Black Reporter for ABC News
In 1962 ABC News was looking for an African-American reporter. They realized that their base of reporters was all white, and they set out to rectify this problem. Goode was recommended to ABC by one of his friends, baseball player Jackie Robinson, and was chosen from among nearly 40 candidates. He won the position because of his skill and professionalism, and in a history-making event, he was assigned to cover the United Nations in New York City, a job coveted by many reporters. He was the first black reporter hired by ABC.
Only a few months after he took the job with ABC, Goode had to cover the Cuban missile crisis, when it looked like the United States and the Soviet Union might go to war because of the presence of Russian nuclear weapons in Cuba. Goode covered the debates on the topic at the United Nations, taking the difficult and contentious subject and making it accessible to Americans everywhere. He was said to have distinguished himself in the reporting, leading the way for more equality in news coverage across the country. Whereas previously the news had centered around white concerns and issues, there began to be more news about under-represented minorities. This became especially obvious in the 1960s when race riots occurred in Detroit, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. News teams had a hard time covering both sides of the story, and there were few reporters who could do so. Goode was one of the few who was sent in to cover the riots, and he did so with respect and sympathy.
Goode Refused to Be Pigeon-Holed
Goode went on to cover such important issues as the assassination of Malcolm X and the shooting of Martin Luther King, Jr. But he refused to be pigeonholed into writing only about the subject of race. He covered everything and anything newsworthy that he found to be of interest to him and of importance in the world. He was a huge proponent of journalists helping young people become good future journalists. With that idea in mind, in 1963 Goode took a trip overseas with other black colleagues to help teach journalism in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia.
Goode remained working at the United Nations until the 1980s. He then left that post to become a consultant for ABC, although he kept an office at the United Nations Building until he was almost 80 years old and retired from journalism. He also sometimes reported on international affairs for the National Black Network, and was often asked to speak in public about his years as a journalist and about current affairs, as well as civil rights and important events going on at the United Nations.
Goode married Mary Lavelle, with whom he would eventually have six children: Robert, Malvin Jr., Richard, Ronald, Roberta, and Rosalia. He died of a stroke in 1995, at the age of 87, at Margret's Memorial Hospital in Pittsburgh. Those attending his funeral at Pittsburgh's Lincoln Avenue Church of God recalled all the wonderful things he had done as a journalist. Jet magazine quoted Peter Jennings, a fellow journalist, as having said that "Mal could have very sharp elbows. If he was on a civil rights story and anyone even appeared to give him any grief because he was black he made it more than clear that this was now a free country…. He taught us a lot."
Throughout his lifetime Goode was sought after for public appearances, and he was a member of numerous organizations, including the Association of Radio-TV Analysts, the National Association of Radio and TV News Directors, and the United Nations Correspondents Association, for which he served as president in 1972. Also in 1972 Goode took his place in the President's Plan for Progress Committee alongside other corporate representatives. He was a member of 100 Black Men in New York. He consulted with the National Black Network and was a trustee for the First Baptist Church of Teaneck, New Jersey.
Goode acquired many awards during his career, including the Mary McLeod Bethune Award from Bethune-Cookman College and the Michelle Clark Award from Columbia University School of Journalism. In 1972 he received the Polish Government Award from the United Nations. In 1964 he was named Man of the Year by the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and was given their Award of Merit. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette wrote, "Goode always remembered friends and family in his hometown of Homestead. He often returned there for homecoming at his boyhood church of Clark Memorial. Goode's creeds of life came from his parents: 'It does not cost you anything to treat people right' and 'You're no better than anyone else, and no one else is any better than you … now go out and prove it!'" And it would seem that that was exactly what he did.
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"Goode, Mal." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/goode-mal
"Goode, Mal." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved April 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/goode-mal
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Goode, Mal 1908–1995
Mal Goode 1908–1995
Mal Goode was the first African American to appear on the air regularly as a network news correspondent. When the American Broadcast Company (ABC) hired the veteran Pittsburgh radio and newspaper reporter in 1962, it assigned him the prestigious United Nations bureau post in New York City, where he remained for two decades. Goode’s drive and dedication made him an inspiration and mentor to younger colleagues in broadcast journalism both black and white. Though he covered civil rights marches and integration issues for ABC for many years, he did so because they were of importance to him, not simply because the network assigned its “black” stories to African American reporters. Upon his death in 1995, Goode was praised for the integrity and professionalism he brought to his job, and the doors he gallantly held open for a younger generation of reporters.
Goode was born Malvin Russell Goode in White Plains, Virginia, in 1908, the grandson of former slaves. He grew up around Pittsburgh, and went to public schools in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Goode began working in the steel mills while he was in high school and continued there through out his studies at the University of Pitts-burgh, where he earned a bachelor of arts in 1931. Jobs were scarce during the Great Depression and even scarcer for African American college graduates, so Goode continued working in the mills for another five years.
In 1936 Goode became a probation officer with the juvenile court in Pittsburgh and a director of boys works for a Pittsburgh Young Men’s Christian Association center, which at the time ran extremely popular and influential community programs for urban children. Goode was instrumental in helping to end some of the discriminatory practices of the Pittsburgh YMCA centers. Then, during the 1940s, Goode became part of the management staff at the Pittsburgh Housing Authority, a post he held for six years.
Goode entered journalism in 1948 at the age of 40, when he was hired at the Pittsburgh Courier, the city’s African American newspaper and at the time the most successful of its kind in circulation in the country. In 1949 he began to do 15-minute news broadcasts for the radio station KQV. The following year he jumped ship to WHOD and did a daily five-minute news show. Eventually, Goode and his sister, Mary Dee, had a news
Born Malvin Russell Goode, February 13, 1908, in White Plains, VA; died after a stroke, September 12, 1995, in Pittsburgh, PA; married Mary Lavelle; children: Mai, Jr., Robert, Richard, Roberta, Ronald, Rosalia. Education: University of Pittsburgh, B.A., 1931.
First African American corespondent for a network news organization. Worked in Pittsburgh-area steel mills, c 1920s; juvenile court probation officer and Pittsburgh Young Men’s Christian Association director of boys works, both from 1936; Pittsburgh Housing Authority, management staff, c. 1940s; Pittsburgh Courier, began as reporter, 1948; KQV (radio station), Pittsburgh, reporter, from 1949; WHOD, news reporter, from 1950, and news director, from 1952—while continuing to report for the Courier; ABC-TV, News Division, New York City, United Nations correspondent, 1962—c. 1982, and consultant, c 1982—c. 1987; National Black Network, special correspondent for international affairs, 1970s, and later consultant. Also served as advisor to Ramapo College and Norfolk State College.
Member: Association of Radio and TV News Analysts, Association of Radio and TV News Directors (first African American member), United Nations Correspondents Association (president, 1972), New York 100 Black Mens’ Club, President’s Plan for Progress Committee, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (board member), Amistad Awards (board member), First Baptist Church of Teaneck, NJ (trustee).
Selected awards: Man of the Year, Alpha Phi Alpha, 1964; honorary doctor of humanities, Shaw University; Mary McLeod Bethune Award, Bethune-Cookman College; Polish Government Award, United Nations, 1972; Michelle Clark Award, Columbia University School of Journalism, 1974.
show on WHOD that was the only brother-sister team in the business. In 1952 he was named news director of the radio station, while maintaining his post at the Pittsburgh Courier. Through his work he became the first African American member of the National Association of Radio and Television News Directors. By this time he had also married Mary Lavelle and begun a family that would eventually produce six children.
In 1962 Goode was hired by ABC News as its first African American reporter and assigned the United Nations beat. His historic first came as a result of a comment made by baseball great Jackie Robinson—the first African American to play in the major leagues and a friend of Goode’s—to ABC vice president James Hagerty on how the only people of color he saw at ABC headquarters appeared to be “a lady with a white uniform in the lobby dusting and a Negro doorman.” ABC chose Goode from among three dozen candidates, partly “because he was considered dark enough so blacks would know he was black, but light enough so that whites wouldn’t feel threatened,” according to information attributed to Goode in the The African American Almanac.
Only two months into his new job, Goode distinguished himself with his coverage of the tense Cuban missile crisis, when many assumed the United States and the Soviet Union were about to declare war. Goode reported from the onerous debates between representatives of both countries at the United Nations headquarters in Manhattan. Goode also served as a reporter for ABC’s local affiliate in New York City, WABC, but he was still only one of a meager number of African Americans who appeared on the air.
The riots of the 1960s in cities like Los Angeles, Newark, and Detroit pointed out the bias in broadcast journalism during this era. Previously, media outlets had focused on providing news about a world that seemed exclusively white. The media realized they were portraying a limited view of the world to their audiences when these cities started to burn, and they had few African American reporters they could send out to cover the disturbances. Goode was on of them.
The 1968 National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders helped bring more African Americans to jobs at major stations across the country, but by then Goode had already covered the assassinations of prominent African American leaders Malcolm X and Martin Luther King, Jr. Goode’s long-time ABC colleague George Strait recalled about the seasoned journalist in the New York Times, “He wouldn’t let them assign him only to so-called black stories…. He opened the way for the next generation.” Goode also took his expertise overseas, joining a delegation of other African American colleagues in teaching journalism in Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Tanzania for two months in 1963.
Goode was the U.N. correspondent until the early 1980s, when he became a consultant to the network. He kept an office at the United Nations until he was nearly 80. For many years he also served as special correspondent on international affairs for the syndicated National Black Network, and was an in-demand public speaker.
Goode died after a stroke at the age of 87 on September 12, 1995. During his career he had provided guidance to several later prominent broadcast journalists, and was eulogized for the color-blindness he brought to his profession. Peter Jennings, ABC World News Tonight anchor, asserted in Jet that Goode “loved his work and he was never shy to tell people who hassled him on the job that this was now a free country. He taught us a lot.” Cable News Network (CNN) anchor Bernie Shaw was another recipient of Goode’s wisdom, and upon his death Shaw created a tribute video in which Goode responded to the query, “How do you want to be remembered?” with the reply “I’d like to be remembered as somebody who tried to do something to make life better for someone, not better for black people, not better for Afro Americans, not better for white people, but better for humanity,” Jet’s obituary reported.
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Wormley, Stanton L., and Lewis H. Fenderson, editors, Many Shades of Black, Morrow, 1969, pp. 259-260.
Black Enterprise, June 1977, pp. 141, 146.
Jet, October 2, 1995, pp. 17-18.
New York Times, September 15, 1995, p. D17.
"Goode, Mal 1908–1995." Contemporary Black Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (April 23, 2019). https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/goode-mal-1908-1995
"Goode, Mal 1908–1995." Contemporary Black Biography. . Retrieved April 23, 2019 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/education/news-wires-white-papers-and-books/goode-mal-1908-1995