John Goolrick, long time Virginia political reporter and congressional aide, passed this week at the age of 70. Strange to say, even though I was a person he probably didn’t remember, I feel today as if a piece of what is good and unique about the commonwealth I grew up in has passed and may never come back.
It is more than the fact that John Goolrick was legendary in the realm of Virginia political writing. John was a throwback to the days when reporters reported facts, not vitriol; a time when legislators could disagree without being disagreeable, and not being of a particular ideological persuasion was not considered a character defect.
I met John in 1983. I was working for John Chichester as a campaign manager, and did not know what in the world I was doing. We parted ways by Labor Day, and John managed to eke out 83% of the vote over George Dowd. I would like to think it was the sterling foundation I laid down that made his landslide possible 😉
John Goolrick recognized in me a political junkie who was more analyist than warrior. He was always kind to me when we chatted, and more than once he made off hand comments about things I might consider doing. Amazingly all his ideas worked. Later I discovered that he was one of the folks who urged his childhood friend to run for the State Senate, and helped organize his campaign even as Goolrick continued to write political stories for the Fredericksburg Free Lance Star.
I haven’t seen John in years, yet I mourn his passing. I think it is because I miss the idea of John Goolrick, and perhaps it is because although I knew him so little I felt I knew him so well.
John Goolrick knew his own head and his own heart. You could call him a fool and he wouldn’t take permanent offense, and expected the same of others. He believed in loyalty: to individuals, to ideas, to ideals, and to place-like his beloved Fredericksburg. He knew how to tell and take a joke, and come back for more. He saw the the little things in life as a source of joy and not a source of mortal contention.
There used to be a lot of folks in public life like John Goolrick, and that number is dwindling behind a reliance on polls, oppo research, and clever advertisements. He was a joyous, bold, audacious yawp of a man if ever there was one, and his passing is our loss. I wish there were more like him around…Lord, we could sure use them.