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James W. Good

Cosmos Business Manager Becomes Secretary of War

On the front cover of Time magazine for September 2, 1929, is the portrait of a man in his late 50s, sitting at a writing desk, ink pen in his right hand.  On the desk is the blurry impression of an official looking document, a glass ink well, and a brass biplane model.   The man is dressed in a black suit with a white shirt, conservative dark tie, black vest.  The eyes of this white-haired man with white mustache look directly at us from the cover, his act of writing interrupted by our presence.  Below the portrait, there is no name but there are three words identifying the man's office: Secretary of War.  The man's name is James W. Good.  He was the first--and perhaps the last--Coe graduate to appear on a cover of Time.

Raised on a farm a few miles north of Cedar Rapids, James Good was the son of Mr. And Mrs. Henry Good, early Linn County pioneers who emigrated from Indiana in 1841.  After attending a district school while also working on the farm with his father, Good acquired a particularly thorough Coe education.  He began his studies in the preparatory academy, probably in the fall of 1885, and entered Coe as a freshman in the fall of 1888. During his years as a student, Good exerted what would prove to be a dramatic and lasting impact on the college.  In the fall of 1890, he was one of the students who established the Cosmos, and he served as the business manager for two years, ensuring that the publication received sufficient funds to continue being printed.  Good was also an outstanding orator.  He won Coe's oratorical contest his senior year and placed second at the state content, held in the Greene opera house. 

In the fall of his senior year, Good joined with several other students–including Frederick Murray and George Bryant-in organizing Coe's first football team.  "Prof" Bryant later recalled that without Good's efforts, the team would have had no uniforms: "Jim was the only fellow who had enough money handy to buy suits, so he was made manager of the first team." Even with Good's best efforts, however, the suits did not arrive until the day before the first game with Cornell "and then the team had to chase an express wagon over town to get them."

After his graduation from Coe, studied law at the University of Michigan, married Lucy Deacon (an 1893 Coe grad), practiced law for three years in Indiana, and then returned to Cedar Rapids to join a law firm with his father-in-law.  After ten years of practicing law, the Republican Good entered politics, beginning with his election as city attorney in 1906.  The victor in a controversial utilities rate case, ultimately decided in his favor by the United State Supreme Court, Good was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served for 14 years. In the Republican-dominated house, Good eventually gained the chairmanship of the Appropriations Committee.  While a Congressman, Good was also elected a member of Coe’s Board of Trustees, a position he held from 1910 until his death.

In 1922, Good decided to leave elected office and return to private law practice.  But during his years in Washington he had gained some powerful connections.  In 1924 he helped Coolidge win re-election, and in 1928 he emerged as one of Hoover's "unofficial" campaign managers, responsible for helping Hoover carry the west.  As a reward for securing Hoover’'s nomination as the Republican candidate-and for his advice in defeating Al Smith in the November election--Good was appointed to the Cabinet's No. 3 post, Secretary of War.   According to the cover article in Time magazine, Good recalled that when he was a congressman, people were always claiming that the Secretary of War was the "softest job in the Cabinet," but he found himself surrounded by diverse, demanding issues concerning military expenditures, the Air Corps, veterans affairs, projects of the Corps of Engineers, etc.

Regrettably, less than three months after appearing on the cover of Time, James W. Good was dead, following an operation for gangrenous appendicitis.  A funeral service was conducted in the east room of the White House and then a burial service was conducted by President Gage at the First Presbyterian Church in Cedar Rapids.  Coe's ROTC unit, including the band and three companies, formed part of a military escort for a funeral procession from the church to the Oak Hill cemetery.  At the time of his death, President Hoover offered these words on this friend from Iowa who had helped him win the Presidency:

For most of his mature life he served the nation, earning the highest esteem for his abilities, his fine integrity, and his courageous spirit.  But the first thoughts of those who knew and loved him are not of public service.  It is for his loyal and self-effacing friendship that thousands remember him; and that affectionate association is now broken.

 
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