At 70, KET host Bill Goodman looks to new career, not retirement

Bill Goodman takes over Jan. 1 as director of the Kentucky Humanities Council. Goodman, who worked more than 20 years as a broadcaster at KET, published a book of essays in 2015.
Bill Goodman takes over Jan. 1 as director of the Kentucky Humanities Council. Goodman, who worked more than 20 years as a broadcaster at KET, published a book of essays in 2015. KET

Bill Goodman, 70, hasn’t thought about retirement.

His father, Henry Goodman, worked until he died in 1991 at age 79. Goodman thinks it’s a good example. In fact, well into his 60s, Goodman enrolled in the Master of Fine Arts program at Spalding University.

He is leaving Kentucky Educational Television on Dec. 31 after more than 20 years to become executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council. He hosted “Kentucky Tonight” and “One to One with Bill Goodman,” and he was the host and moderator of KET’s sometimes-raucous candidate forums and election-night coverage.

“From the KET perspective, certainly, his presence has helped elevate our public affairs presence,” said Renee Shaw, who started at KET about the same time as Goodman and is host of KET’s minority affairs program, “Connections with Renee Shaw.” “So many look at him and think, ‘one of the fairest guys on television.’”

For Goodman, the humanities council job is “an opportunity to continue to tell the same Kentucky story that I’ve been trying to do here at KET.”

“I just never thought about doing anything but keeping busy,” he said. “There’s so much to do in other areas. That’s what gets me up and gets me going each day.”

Goodman attended Western Kentucky University, leaving just short of a degree to take a job in Nashville. Later he would return from Houston to help his father, “and I will never regret or look back on that with anything but fondness. ... It was a gift to be with him at the end of his life, and with my mother.”

The interval allowed him to have experiences that journalists tend to shy away from to avoid conflicts of interest: becoming a member of the Rotary Club and serving on some boards.

In 2015, Goodman published a book of essays, “Beans, Biscuits, Family and Friends: Life Stories,” in which he reflects on travels to country stores with his father, a grocery and candy supplier; trekking up Mount Rainier (successfully) and other climbs (less successfully); and holding forth on the great foods of Kentucky.

Those include beaten biscuits, sweet pickles, tomatoes (which Goodman has struggled to grow) and all varieties of cornbread: corn muffins, corn sticks made in a cast-iron pan, corn bread fried on a griddle, skillet cornbread and hot water dodgers, little oval cornmeal cakes called dodgers because they were tossed hand to hand during their preparation.

“A lot of what I remember and what I think is the core, the essence of who I am today came from growing up in Glasgow,” he said.

One of his priorities at the humanities council, he said, will be to raise the profile of what the council does. Many people know the council for its Chautauqua program, which brings Kentucky history to life through performance, but it also presents the annual book fair in Frankfort and has a speakers bureau that provides scholars, historians, writers and poets to talks on topics of Kentucky history and culture. The council also works with Prime Time Family Reading Time and produces “Kentucky Humanities” magazine.

The humanities council is a nonprofit Kentucky corporation affiliated with the National Endowment for the Humanities. It is not part of state government.

Goodman is married to Debbie Lacy Goodman. He has four grandchildren: three granddaughters and a grandson, Henry William Goodman IV.

As a mentor, Shaw said, Goodman “has been a real voice of reason, and very thoughtful, and always committed ... to make sure we show the humanity of our collective struggle, and our goodness, too.”

By the way, he has no qualms about aging: “I say I’m not 70. I’m 70 1/2 .”

Cheryl Truman: 859-231-3202, @CherylTruman

Here is the recipe Goodman gives for corn dodgers.

Cord dodgers

6 handfuls of white cornmeal

 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon lard

bacon drippings

Combine ingredients. Pour in enough boiling water to make a stiff mixture. Mix well and cool. Divide into six portions and “dodge” from hand to hand to shape. Have a well-greased griddle hot. Place dodgers on griddle, and fry until crispy on both sides.