New York peak's new name honors rights worker

Andrew Goodman's ties to Adirondacks noted in change to map

October 24, 2002|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

TUPPER LAKE, N.Y. - The 1964 murder of Andrew Goodman in Mississippi prompted an aggressive investigation of the Ku Klux Klan and, decades later, inspired the movie Mississippi Burning.

The killings of Goodman and two other young volunteers who were registering blacks to vote is viewed as a turning point in the civil rights movement.

But Bill Frenette, the village historian here in Franklin County, fretted that even though Goodman's place in American history was secure, his ties to the northern Adirondacks could easily be forgotten. Goodman's family had visited here during the summers since the 1930s, and a mountain overlooking the family's vacation home has long been known here as Goodman Mountain. So last spring Frenette, 75, began a small campaign to make official the name that the mountain bore unofficially for almost 70 years.

Word came recently that the U.S. Board on Geographic Names had approved his application. That means that the next time the U.S. Geological Survey updates its maps, the name Goodman Mountain will appear where there is now a blank.

To Frenette, preserving the Goodman name is the best way to commemorate one summer resident who helped change history.

`Another 70 years'

"It could be another 70 years before they reprint those maps, and place names get lost to antiquity," Frenette said on a recent afternoon when he used a compass to lead a visitor up the trailless mountain.

"In time, it would have been called something else," he said. "But I would like to think people will look at it and say, `That's Goodman Mountain,' and have it ring a bell that it's the mountain loved by the wealthy kid who gave up his life to help people in Mississippi."

In 1964, Andrew Goodman, a 20-year-old Queens College student, gave up a Tupper Lake summer to join a voter registration campaign in Mississippi. At the end of his first day, a sheriff's deputy pulled over the car in which Goodman and his fellow volunteers, Michael Schwerner and James Chaney, were traveling. Later, the deputy turned the three men over to the gunmen who shot them. The bodies were found buried in an earth dam.

In support of his petition, Frenette gathered resolutions from local and county governments, and letters from people who attested that for three generations, Andrew Goodman's family had given generously to the community.

Beginning in the 1920s, a construction company started by Goodman's grandfather, Charles Goodman, built portions of the New York City subway, the George Washington Bridge and the Lincoln Tunnel.

In 1933, Goodman brought his masons upstate to build a granite cottage on 600 acres at the south end of Tupper Lake. In a landscape of mountain and water, one peak dominated the view.

As far as anyone knows, the Goodmans were the only people who climbed through steep, thick forest to reach the summit they called "the roof of the Adirondacks." David Goodman, 56, said that as children, he, his brothers Andrew and Jonathan, and their many cousins hiked several times a week to the peak, 2,174 feet above sea level, marking their path with soup can lids they nailed to trees.

No people encountered

"We saw deer, bear, everything," Goodman said by phone from his office in New Jersey. "But we never, ever saw a human being other than a Goodman. That would have been a shock to us beyond belief."

Many historians say the government was mobilized to investigate and prosecute the case largely because two of the victims, Goodman and Schwerner, were white. In 1967, a jury convicted seven men in the conspiracy that led to the murders. Mississippi Burning, the factually flawed but critically acclaimed film about the investigation, was released in 1988.

"The deaths of those three civil rights workers and the investigation that followed, with the successful prosecution, gave impetus to the civil rights movement in various ways," said Douglas O. Linder, a law professor at the University of Missouri at Kansas City and an expert on the trial. He said the case strengthened President Lyndon B. Johnson's resolve on civil rights issues and was indirectly responsible for the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

When the news of the murders hit Tupper Lake, people immediately recognized the Goodman name. Charles Goodman had built a concrete shelter at the base of the mountain which protects a natural spring, where locals still fill jugs with water. When a local contractor went broke, the company Goodman ran with two sons and a son-in-law stepped in and completed the village sewer plant.

In 1986, the family gave its 600 acres to the state rather than sell to a developer. David Goodman, Andrew's brother, still visits, hiking the mountain with his teenage son, Ivan Andrew Goodman.

"This means more to us than Mississippi Burning," Goodman said of the naming of the mountain. "We are more than the movie. This is about us."

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