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31st Governor of
California, October 5, 1953 - January 5, 1959

Born:  December 9, 1896, in Provo, Utah

Died:  May 22, 1970, in Los Angeles, California

Marriage:  Arvilla Cooley (1925), 2 daughters; Virginia Carlson (1954)


Goodwin Knight was the seventh lieutenant governor to move into the California governor’s chair on the death or resignation of a governor.


Early Life

Knight was born in Provo, Utah, but his family moved to Los Angeles when the boy was eight years old. After completing high school in Los Angeles, Goodwin spent a year working in the lead and zinc mines in Nevada. He enrolled at Stanford University in 1915, but left to enlist as a seaman in the U.S. Navy during the First World War. After the war Knight earned a Bachelor of Arts degree at Stanford, and had one year studying political science and law at Cornell University.



Knight was admitted to the bar in California in 1921 and opened a law practice. He was also the owner of the profitable Elephant-Eagle gold mines in Kern County. In 1935 Knight began a ten-year stint on the Los Angeles County Superior Court, during which time he gained popularity as moderator of an educational radio program, The Open Forum. He was elected as lieutenant governor in 1946 and again in 1950. He had decided to run for governor in 1954, but Governor Warren’s appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court made Knight governor in 1953.



As governor, Knight followed the popular programs of the preceding governor. Problems of flood control and irrigation were addressed with a water development program that sought to conserve resources and develop new ones. Work was begun on the Feather River project. In addition, a department of alcoholic beverage control was created in 1955. After announcing that he would seek a second term, Governor Knight decided to run instead for the U.S. Senate in 1958. He was defeated.


Later Years

Knight returned to his business ventures in southern California. He appeared on the legal-advice television show, Judge for Yourself. He became president of an insurance company in 1960. In September 1961 Knight announced that he would again be a candidate for governor, but illness forced the cancellation of this plan. Knight soon regained his health and remained active for some years. He died in 1970 in Los Angeles.


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