Goode, Russell C.

Longtime Music Teacher In Chattanooga Was Accompanist For Mahalia Jackson For 10 Years

  • Monday, September 23, 2013
Russell Goode
Russell Goode

Russell C. Goode, 87, died on September 19, 2013 at a local health care facility.  

He was born on March 19, 1926 in Chattanooga, to the union of Garnie Goode and Alberta Goode Height.  Russell completed studies at Eastdale Elementary and Orchard Knob Junior High Schools before enrolling at Howard High School where he graduated in the class of 1944. 

Music became a part of Russell’s life during his formative years.  He started playing the piano when he was three years old.  By age ten he was studying under the tutelage of Mrs. Lillian Cadek Dame of the Cadek Conservatory.  Arrangements were also made for Russell to receive organ lessons from Ms. Alma Spence.  At his first lesson, however, he simply sat down at the organ and started to play.  “He already knows how” Ms. Spence exclaimed.  “There is nothing to do but just let him do it.”

After completing high school, Russell enrolled at Fisk University in Nashville.  At Fisk he was assigned to advanced organ and piano classes.  He received the Bachelor of Arts Degree in Music in 1949.  Ten years later, he earned the Master of Arts Degree in Music Education from Columbia University in New York City, New York.

Russell’s first job after finishing Fisk was at Mound Bayou High School in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.  After completing one school term, he was drafted by the United States Army, but at his request, he was released to serve in the United States Air Force.  While on his tour of duty Russell frequently played the piano for special events at the Officers’ Club.  He was also the main organist for the chapel at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia.  His skills were such that the commanding officer selected him to serve as the organist at the nearby Fort Monroe Army Base.

In 1955, when his four-year enlistment in the U.S. Air Force was finished, Russell returned to Chattanooga.  He was employed by the Chattanooga Public Schools and assigned as music teacher at Howard Elementary School.  At the end of one school term, he was transferred to Howard Junior High School where he served for eighteen years.  His next assignment during the integration of schools was at East Lake Junior High School.  He then served the remainder of his work tenure as an itinerant teacher with assignments to the following schools:  Joseph E. Smith Elementary, Charles A. Bell Elementary, James A. Henry Elementary, Orchard Knob Elementary, Clara Carpenter Elementary, Henry L. Barger Elementary, G. Russell Brown Elementary and Clifton Hills Elementary.

Russell was a faithful Catholic and served as organist and choirmaster at The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church in Chattanooga for over 50 years.

He achieved worldwide recognition and praise for his excellence in music as special pianist and organist for the late and great Mahalia Jackson, the world’s greatest gospel singer.  During the ten years that he accompanied her in the United States and abroad, he had many exceptional experiences and wonderful opportunities.  He also served as accompanist for the late Coretta Scott King, widow of the slain civil rights activist, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Russell traveled with Mrs. King in the United States and abroad.  He also served as accompanist for Leontyne Price, Stephanie Mills, Joyce Bryant and Nancy Wilson.

Russell was loved and admired by many.  

He is survived by his cousins, Gwendolyn Hill, Vivian Cleopatra Moyer, Thomas Moyer and Edith Moyer all of New Castle, Delaware; caregivers: Judge and Mrs. Walter F. Williams, Malcolm J. Walker; special friends:  Mr. and Mrs. Ray Bagla, Dr. Farhan Rizvi, Otis Smith, William L. Copeland, Billie Jordan Wiley, John P. Franklin, Ned Weigel, Richard Lee, Mr. and Mrs. James Bowles, Janet Allen, Dr. and Mrs. Robert Clark, Dr. Edgar Scott, Catherine DeBose, Deborah Wailes, Lawrence Brown, Jackie King, the family of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept.26, at The Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul at 214 East Eighth Street with Monsignor George Schmidt officiating. Interment will be at Mount Olivet Cemetery.

The body will lie in state after noon on Wednesday, Sept. 25, and the family will receive friends from 7-8 p.m. at the John P. Franklin Funeral Home, 1101 Dodds Ave., 622-9995.

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