Ex-Philadelphia mayor says he feared for his life

September 20, 1992|By New York Times News Service

PHILADELPHIA -- Former Mayor W. Wilson Goode, the city' first black mayor, has written a political memoir containing the revelation that he feared that racist Philadelphia police officers were planning to kill him during the fiery confrontation between police and the radical group Move in 1985.

Mr. Goode says he never alerted his security guards or any other law-enforcement officials, but simply stayed home, out of harm's way.

Mr. Goode was criticized by the commission that investigated the incident for not being on the scene and for allowing officials he said he did not trust to run the operation.

In his book, titled "In Goode Faith," Mr. Goode shrugs off the whole thing, much in the way he ascribes the two-year-old financial crisis with which the city is still grappling to forces and people beyond his control.

He said in an interview Thursday that he saw no purpose in making the assassination attempt a major issue at the time, "and I didn't make it a major issue in my book." Mr. Goode, who now teaches at Eastern College, a suburban school in St. Davids, Pa., completed his second consecutive four-year term in December and was prohibited by the City Charter from running for a third.

Mr. Goode's disclosure raises as many questions as it answers, and some political analysts tend to dismiss the whole book as self-serving.

"Goode tries to do a lot of reinventing of history," said Neil Oxman, a Democratic campaign strategist who helped Mr. Goode win his first mayoral election in 1983. "But unfortunately for him, the citizens of Philadelphia have made up their mind that he was one of the worst mayors of all time."

Mr. Goode's 316-page autobiographical book deals with the assassination plot in a single paragraph, but that disclosure has captured more public interest than anything else in the book co-written by Joann Stevens of Washington.

The former mayor's disclosure leapt off the page for many Philadelphians because he said the assassination was supposed occur May 13, 1985, the day nearly 500 police officers assembled in west Philadelphia to serve members of the radical group Move with arrest warrants for parole violations and assault.

The heavily armed black cult members had fortified their home and had become a threat to the predominantly black neighborhood. The confrontation, shown on television worldwide, resulted in the deaths of 11 of the 13 cult members, including five children, and left a neighborhood in ruins.

Mr. Goode writes that he stayed home that day because "I feared being killed." He says three people he considered reliable had told him that some renegade police officers were plotting to shoot him, presumably only because he was black and mayor of the city, and then portray him as a victim of cross fire between police and Move members. Mr. Goode has refused to reveal the three sources.

"They told me unknown members of my own police force had targeted me for death if I came near 62nd Street and Osage Avenue," he wrote, referring to the neighborhood where the cult members lived in a row house.

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