Every year, in commemoration of Black History Month, Pennsylvania Sen. Bob Casey hosts a day of tribute to honor an individual of color who’s made contributions to society and the black community in the Keystone State.
This year marks the 10th annual tribute Casey has hosted and he has picked former Philadelphia mayor Rev. Dr. W. Wilson Goode, Sr. to be the honoree, despite Goode's checkered history with the black community in the wake of the MOVE bombing.
Asked about Goode’s controversial 1985 bombing of a North Philly row house occupied by the radical black liberation group MOVE – that resulted in four city blocks burned to the ground and 11 dead – Casey said no politicians’ records goes unblemished.
“I think people have made – and might continue to make – judgments on that or any part of his public record, just as they would any public official. What we’re trying to do with this program is to pay tribute to someone who was not only a two-term mayor, but did a lot of good work before, during and after his time as mayor," said Casey.
"We’re paying tribute to his life of service. That doesn’t mean that you agree with every decision or every action he took, but in the totality of the record and the service of the man, that’s what we’re paying tribute to. I’m sure that, like anything in someone’s record, that will continue to be debated.”
Attempts to reach Goode for comment for this story were immediately unsuccessful.
Goode joins a list of 10 previous honorees in receiving the recognition, including minister and civil rights leader Leon Sullivan, former U.S. Secretary of Transportation William Coleman, former Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth C. Delores Tucker and others.
On Monday, Casey will honor Goode with remarks on the Senate floor in Harrisburg, followed by a symposium and reception emceed by Fox29’s Joyce Evans.
“For Wilson Goode, it was a combination of his public service in elected office, and in other positions in government service, as well as his service in the nonprofit world before and after he became mayor,” said Casey.
“He’s also an ordained minister. Some people know, but some may have forgotten.”
Goode is CEO of the Amachi mentoring program, which benefits young people whose parents are incarcerated. Developed in the year 2000, Amachi connects children with caring mentors and serves more than 300,000 children in more than 250 U.S. cities, to date.
“It’s about helping people that sometimes don’t have a voice,” said Casey.
Casey recalled he was only one year out of college when Goode was running for mayor in 1982.
“It was a remarkable experience to be a white male in a 98-percent African-American neighborhood when the first African-American was about to be nominated and then elected,” said Casey.
“It was really interesting to feel the energy and the sense of anticipation.”