Remembering Wade Goodwyn — on the radio, on the golf course or on a camel’s back

Wade Goodwyn, NPR’s longtime national correspondent based in Dallas, died Thursday of cancer at age 63. Rick Holter — KERA’s longtime vice president of news — remembers his friend and former coworker.

By Rick Holter, KERA NewsJune 12, 2023 9:45 am,

From KERA News:

Editor’s note: Wade Goodwyn, NPR’s longtime national correspondent based in Dallas, died Thursday of cancer at age 63. His friend and former coworker, Rick Holter — also KERA’s longtime vice president of news — has this appreciation.

It all started with that voice – a mellifluous bass smoked in barbecue sauce and finished in honey. It’s a voice that defined Texas for NPR listeners across the country and the globe.

That voice was silenced Thursday, as Wade Goodwyn wrapped up his last fight in a long battle with cancer.

Initially, I got to know that voice the way most of America did — listening to his one-of-a-kind tales on NPR. Wade was the network’s national correspondent based in Dallas, a storyteller like no other.

Then I went to work for the network, and I got to know him — first as an editor, and then when I moved back to Dallas, as a friend.

We barbecued together, traveled together, got our dogs together for legendary romps in his backyard. We spent countless hours knocking golf balls around the public courses in Dallas — Tenison Park near his house, Stevens Park near mine.

After he got sick, we took a bucket-list trip with our wives to Maui, where we played his dream course at Kapalua. (We played badly, but we did play it.)

See, Wade loved golf almost as much as he loved Duke basketball and UT football. There was something about the pace of it — four hours away from everything, usually broiling in the Texas sun — that clarified things for him, for both of us.

With our frequent compadres Richard and John, we vowed to not be “those guys,” the ones who get frustrated and toss around their clubs and their curse words. We (mostly) succeeded.

Goodwyn Family / Courtesy Photo

Wade Goodwyn collects sound from on high while reporting for NPR on the Texas Camel Corps in the Davis Mountains of far West Texas in 2013.

What’s indelible about those long mornings and afternoons is the stories. My god, the stories that man could tell.

About his pre-journalism days as a community organizer in New York. About catching on with NPR during the Branch Davidian siege in Waco. About hunkering down in beach hotels and then wading through hurricane carnage the day after. About witnessing the shenanigans of Texas politicians in Austin and trying to figure out how to ride a camel while balancing a microphone through the Big Bend in far West Texas.

And he told, with pride, stories about his daughters Hannah and Sam, his heroic doctor wife Sharon. Stories about his dad, Lawrence, a social-justice legend who taught at Duke and UT-Austin. And his mom, and his sister, his dogs.

See, the thing you didn’t hear on the radio was that beneath all that Lone Star bravado Wade was, well, a softie. He couldn’t resist an underdog, and he would dig and dig and dig until he brought their stories to light.

Wade’s departure will leave holes in a lot of lives: his family, friends, colleagues across the country and listeners around the world. And a few golf courses, too.

Rick Holter, KERA’s former Vice President of News, was a longtime editor at NPR. He now lives with his wife, his dog and his cat in Pagosa Springs, Colorado.

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