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Goodwin Jess Knight

Gov. Goodwin Jess Knight

  • October 5, 1953 - January 5, 1959
  • Republican
  • December 9, 1886
  • May 22, 1970
  • Utah
  • Stanford University; Cornell University
  • Married twice--Arvilla Pearl Cooley, Virginia Carlson; two children
  • Succeeded
  • Navy


GOODWIN JESS KNIGHT was born on December 9, 1896, in Provo, Utah. His family moved to California in 1904 where he was educated. He graduated from Stanford University in 1919, attended Cornell University from 1919 to 1920, and was admitted to the bar in 1921. In between his studies, Knight served in the U.S. Navy as an apprentice seaman. He served on the bench of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County from 1935 to 1946. He also served on numerous boards, including the Toll Bridge Authority, the Land Commissions, and the Council of State Governments. Knight was elected California’s lieutenant governor, and served from 1948 to 1953. On October 5, 1953, Governor Earl Warren resigned from office, and Knight who was lieutenant governor at the time, assumed the governor’s office. After serving out the remainder of Warren’s term, Knight was elected governor, by popular vote, on November 2, 1954. During his tenure, prison conditions improved, and the maximum unemployment insurance payment was increased. The Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control was created, and major achievements were made in water conservation and development. Knight did not seek reelection to the governor’s office, but instead ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1958. He left the governor’s office on January 5, 1959, and was unsuccessful in his 1962 gubernatorial bid. Governor Goodwin Knight died on May 22, 1970, and is buried at the Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California.


Official Records: California State Archives

Personal Papers: Stanford University, Special Collections and University Library

Image source: California State Library: Governors' Gallery

Governors of California 1849-2002

The Political Graveyard

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 1, Westport, Conn.; Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

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