Memorial for James “Cliff” Goings

James “Cliff” Goings
June 23, 1953 ~ March 5, 2021 (age 67)

To his dearly beloved wife, Gwen; to his caring and devoted children: Darryl, Tasha, Joy, Jamie, and Megan; to his faithful mother, Ms. Marie; to his loyal and supportive brothers: David, Marvin, Mike, Joe, Randy, Earl, Charles, and Kenny; to his bonded co-workers: Tommy, Joe, Buster, and Calvin; and to his many relatives, friends, and guests; I want to tell you about the Cliff I knew for over half a century.
When I was in high school Ms. Marie would stop by our house on 5th Avenue every day to talk with my mother before they would walk to work at Rownd and Sons basket factory. I knew David (Cliff’s oldest brother) who was a year ahead of me in high school, and Marvin, (the second oldest brother) who was a year behind me in my brother David’s class. I did not know Cliff then. A few years later, when I was away at college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, my mother wrote and asked me to pick up Ms. Marie’s younger son from Logan Airport in Boston. He had just won a full scholarship to spend the summer studying at the elite Phillips Academy in Andover, Massachusetts.
Accordingly, I picked Cliff up from the airport and took him for the weekend to the Harvard campus. Little did I know that that small gesture of mine would have such a profound impact on him and his view of life, especially on his view of Harvard as the best university in the world. It was from that time on that he would become a friend for life.
When he returned to Gordon High from Phillips Academy, Cliff spent one more year in high school before entering Morehouse College, without graduating from Gordon, winning the prestigious Merrill Scholarship set up for select bright young black men who were recruited to Morehouse to launch them into their various careers. He studied almost two years at Morehouse during the time that my brother David was finishing his years there. Cliff left Morehouse, returned to Dillon, and married my cousin, Gwen. They started a family, and he worked in local factories before following in his father’s footsteps as a master brick mason. I heard this story countless times from him, and for years I thought he had told me it was Gwen’s sweet potato pie that, among other things, that sealed their union, but just recently, he clarified that it was her banana pudding that helped pull him in. He loved her, and he loved her cooking.
As their family grew, Cliff worked harder and longer hours to provide for their needs and wants. Having been a gifted and talented student, he valued higher education and always pushed his children to get a college degree, everyone of whom fulfilled his wish. He was always interested in their academic achievements and career opportunities. He wanted the best for each of them and was willing to sacrifice his labor and time for their success. Their lives and careers, he often told me, would go beyond what he had accomplished.
Himself a hardworking and good family provider, he nonetheless acknowledged the help given by others. He often praised the guidance and childcare assistance he and his family received from his in-laws—my cousin, Mildred, and her late husband, June. Cliff also deeply appreciated the mechanical labor and support for his many vehicles that Gwen’s brothers provided. He loved and admired them as he did his own. He believed that family should help family.
The Goings name meant everything to him. He loved his mother and admired his father (and that word is not strong enough) and the legacy of Jim Goings. When Cliff rarely mentioned his late sister Cynthia, but often spoke of his cast of brothers, there was always a sparkle in his eyes. What his brothers owned, he owned. They exchanged equipment and labor all the time. They were Goings, he would proclaim. The word pride might have been invented for him. He knew the details of the lives of each of his siblings’ children, his many nieces and nephews—their careers, their accomplishments, their goals. That’s why the annual Goingses’ family trips here and abroad meant so much to him. He would relax and catch up with what was going on in the lives of his extended family. I was honored that a few years ago he declared me his “adopted” brother. I doubt that he would have made such a declaration had I graduated from Yale.
I could never accept Cliff’s uncritical view of Harvard or his blanket admiration of a Ph.D. I know too many Harvard Ph.D.’s who cannot get themselves from one side of a town to the other. Conversely, I also know many brilliant and pioneering thinkers who did not go to Harvard, or to any Ivy League School, and who had no degree at all. Cliff himself was my prime example, I would tell him. His chosen work was remarkable and his legacy for brick masonry looms large over the Pee Dee area and beyond. From a sidewalk that I formerly owned on 9th Avenue to my present walled fence on Jackson Street to my chimneys and winged steps on my farm in Minturn, Cliff’s craftsmanship stands as testimony and legacy to his brilliance, skill, and expertise.
These are the beautiful edifices—his legacies— that remain for future generations around this area to enjoy and admire. Cliff and his crew often worked long hours into the night, rain or shine, to get the jobs done. They worked as a team, and Cliff was the reason they melded so well. For him, the only way to make money was to work for it, and to work together. He fostered teamwork and he pushed everyone to superior performance. That’s why these men supported him all along, through thick and thin. He lived to work and loved to lead. He was in charge. His work ethic and productivity were unmatched.
Alongside his entrepreneurial spirit was a generous soul. He gave his earnings anonymously to many people and causes—donations to churches and church rallies, money to the elderly sick and shut-in, and free labor to the City of Dillon Parks and Recreation Department. He loved the role of benefactor, especially at Christmas when he could play Santa Claus to his children and grandchildren. On Christmas Eve, he would hunt me down to go shopping with him for his many gifts. Nothing pleased him more than finding a special present or toy for family and friends. I will miss his fun and laughter on these occasions.
Over the years, we talked almost every day—about nothing special, just to say hello—except for Saturday when he viewed his Westerns, or Sunday when he watched college football. We did talk about politics, about his grandchildren, and, of course, about Harvard. Any mention of MIT was an afterthought for Cliff, uttered merely as what he hoped was a courtesy to me.
What an interesting, wonderful, and unique friend whose zest and zeal for talk and work cannot be fully portrayed. I’ll forever hear his voice—distinct laughter at odd times—blended in with the sounds of bricks and mortar being laid to purpose. May my friend and brother rest in peace.
Kenneth R. Manning
161 Saint Botolph Street, Boston, MA 02115

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