Carolyn Goodman, a Manhattan clinical psychologist who became a nationally prominent civil rights advocate after her son Andrew and two other civil rights workers were murdered by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964, died yesterday at her home on the Upper West Side. She was 91.
Dr. Goodman, who had suffered a series of strokes and seizures in recent weeks, died of natural causes, her son David said. At her death, she was assistant clinical professor emeritus of psychiatry at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in the Bronx.
Politically active until she was 90, Dr. Goodman came to wide public attention again two years ago. Traveling to Philadelphia, Miss., she testified at the murder trial of Edgar Ray Killen, a former Klan leader recently indicted in the case. On June 21, 2005, the 41st anniversary of the killings, a jury acquitted Mr. Killen of murder but found him guilty of manslaughter in the deaths of Andrew Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner.
In the summer of 1964, Mr. Goodman and Mr. Schwerner, two white Northerners, and Mr. Chaney, a black Mississippian, converged in Neshoba County, Miss. They were there to take part in Freedom Summer, a campaign to register black Mississippians to vote. On June 21, they disappeared.
From the moment the disappearance was made public, Dr. Goodman was in the spotlight, facing batteries of television cameras outside her apartment on West 86th Street as she pleaded for Mississippians, and all Americans, to help in the search. On Aug. 4, the bodies of the three men were found in an earthen dam near Philadelphia. All had been shot.
The fate of the three young men — Mr. Goodman was 20, Mr. Chaney 21, Mr. Schwerner 24 — was widely seen as helping inspire the historic civil rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 1965, and the passage of the Voting Rights Act the same year.
A slender, elegant woman with sleek short hair, Dr. Goodman remained for decades a highly visible political presence. As she repeatedly made plain, she was not seeking revenge. (To the end of her life, she publicly opposed capital punishment.) She was, rather, agitating to see justice done — not only for her son and his colleagues, but on a wide range of issues.
In 1966, Dr. Goodman and her husband, Robert Goodman, started the Andrew Goodman Foundation, which supports a variety of social causes. Over the years, she took a prominent part in antiwar demonstrations, lectured often to student and religious groups and marched in civil rights rallies of all kinds.
In a telephone interview yesterday, her son David recounted a characteristic incident, which happened in 1999, during the public protest over the death of Amadou Diallo, the Guinean immigrant shot and killed by New York police officers. A colleague came into Mr. Goodman's office to tell him that his mother had just been seen on television, being taken off to jail.
"I said, 'Well, that happens from time to time,'" Mr. Goodman recalled.
I blogged about Carolyn Goodman when Killen was indicted for the three murders in January, 2005, and again briefly on the anniversary of the murder.
I've posted a lot of obituaries lately! They were all New Yorkers, and the city is diminished without them. But I'm glad they were all old, and they lived wonderfully full lives.