U. L. Gooch

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U. L. "Rip" Gooch
Member of the Kansas Senate
from the 29th district
In office
Personal details
Born Ulysses Lee Gooch
(1923-09-13) September 13, 1923 (age 93)
Ripley, Tennessee, United States
Political party Democratic
Residence Wichita, Kansas
Occupation pilot, businessman

Ulysses Lee "Rip" Gooch (born September 13, 1923) is a former pilot, aviation entrepreneur, and Kansas politician. Gooch was a member of the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights, 1971–74; member of the Wichita City Council, 1989–93; and a Kansas state senator (D-Wichita, 29th District - central-northeast Wichita) from 1993 until retiring in January 2004 as the state's oldest serving senator, at 80. Gooch was one of the first inductees to the Black Aviation Hall of Fame.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Early life[edit]

Gooch was born in Ripley, Tennessee, the son of rural Tennessee sharecroppers and the grandson of emancipated slaves, Gooch was orphaned at age four and fended for himself growing up in the 1920s and 1930s under the shadow of Jim Crow. Working in fields while watching airplanes fly overhead, he dreamed of escaping to a better life. While in high school, in 1943, during World War II, Gooch joined the Army, and was eventually shipped to the Philippines as a sergeant supervising a construction operation; he was discharged after the war in 1946. He graduated from his hometown's Lauderdale High School while in the military.[2][4][5]

Aviation career[edit]

Gooch subsequently began taking flight lessons on the GI Bill, earning his private pilot's license in 1947, and continued with advanced flight training at a private flying service. About this time, he met and married Augusta Fields (their marriage would last until her death 48 years later). While studying veterinary medicine at Tennessee State University (then Tennessee A & I University), Gooch continued his flight training, eventually becoming a commercial pilot and flight instructor. He became a part-time stunt flyer with the legendary airshow empresario Billl Sweet.[4][5][10]

However, despite earning his wings, Gooch couldn’t find full-time aviation work because he was black. In 1951, Gooch moved to Wichita, Kansas—a major aviation industrial center known as the "Air Capital City"—where he began to work for Boeing Airplane Company. After battling racism at Boeing[11][12] while working as a Boeing inspector in the 1950s, he decided to start his own flight business—one of the first black-owned modern FBOs (general aviation fixed-base operations) in the U.S.,[13][14] which provided a stepping stone for a number of other black pilots.[2][4][8][9][10]

In the late 1950s, at Wichita's Rawdon Airport, Gooch became owner/operator of its FBO, Aero Services, Inc. Aero Services provided flight training, charter flying, aircraft rental and storage. Aero Services also became the Mooney Aircraft regional distributorship for Kansas and parts of Missouri (ironically right across the street from the factory of Mooney's chief rival Beech Aircraft). Gooch, with partner Dan La Master, extensively modernized Rawdon Field during 1962-1966. Gooch's enterprise, by 1972, had grown to operate an extensive government-contract air taxi operation, using a fleet of twin-engined Beech 18 transports and other aircraft, moving classified information between U.S. military bases in 17 states. Another section of the business overhauled military helicopter parts.[2][4][5][7][14][15][16][17][18][19]

Following his 17 years of operating Aero Services, Inc., Gooch continued for 20 years as a freelance charter pilot, flight instructor and FAA-designated pilot examiner. For four years, he was a consultant to leading business-aircraft manufacturer Raytheon Aircraft (the name used for Beech Aircraft when under control of Raytheon Corporation).[2][5][10]

In 1993, Gooch was the recipient of the annual Kansas Governor's Aviation Honor Award. The citation noted his involvement "on the Kansas Department of Transportation’s Aviation Advisory Committee [and as] a member of the Aviation Museum Task Force, Wichita Airport Authority, Negro Airmen International, Tuskegee Airmen and Black Army Aviators."[10][20] It further cited his role in providing flight training opportunity to young people:

"He has given youth, particularly African-American youth, an opportunity to explore aviation up-close and personal. He operates a scholarship fund in memory of his son, Kerry Gooch. For two weeks every summer, he takes selected youth off the streets and gives them the opportunity to travel to Tuskegee, Alabama. There they participate in an aviation program that includes a solo performance at the controls of a Cessna aircraft."[10]

In 2001, Gooch was inducted into the National Black Aviation Hall of Fame.[2][3]

A Kansas Senate Resolution, honoring him in 2013, notes that:

"Senator Gooch was instrumental in the formation of the International Black Aerospace Council, an umbrella organization of five major black aviation organizations. He has served on the Aviation Advisory Committee of the Kansas Department of Transportation, the Air Museum Task Force and the Wichita Airport Authority, and he is a member of the Kansas Aviation Museum Board;..."[2][10]

U. L. 'Rip' Gooch is currently (2014) a pilot with 20,000 flight hours (over 18,000 as pilot-in-command), and is a retired Federal Aviation Administration designated pilot examiner.[2][4][5][10][13]

Political career[edit]

Gooch served on the Kansas Commission on Civil Rights from 1971 to 1974,[2] as an appointee of Governor Robert Docking (Democrat). His tenure coincided with the sharply increased enforcment activism of the KCCR.[6][7][8][9]

One of the few African Americans elected to the Wichita City Council, he served from 1989 to 1992, including two one-year terms as Vice Mayor.[2][5][7][8][9]

Gooch was elected to the Kansas Senate in 1992 as a Democrat, serving from 1993 until 2004, representing the 29th Kansas Senate District—an inner-city area in central-northeast Wichita.[1][2][8][9]

The 2013 Kansas Senate Resolution honoring him reported that:

"His committee assignments have included service as ranking minority member of the Federal and State Affairs and Transportation Committees plus membership on the Elections and Local Government, Administrative Rules and Regulations, Local Government, Commerce, Economic Development and Governmental Organization Committees. He also served on the Joint Committee on Rules and Regulations and the Joint Committee on Economic Development;..."[2]

In 2003—citing frustrations with the lack of progress in the shortest Kansas legislative session in decades—Gooch retired from the Kansas Senate, a few months from turning 80 years of age, as the oldest serving Kansas senator.[1][5][21]

Gooch was succeeded by State Representative Donald Betts (D-Wichita).[22]

Gooch successfully urged daughter Bonita Gooch to assume leadership of Wichita's leading black newspaper, the Community Voice, which she subsequently has operated for decades.[5][23][24]

Gooch's grandson, Kerry Gooch, became Executive Director of the Kansas Democratic Party in 2015.[5]

Retirement and Publicity[edit]

In 2006, with journalist Glen Sharp (New York Times, Newsweek), self-published his autobiography: Black Horizons: One Aviator's Experience in the Post-Tuskeegee Era,,[4] (also online at Google Books, and distributed by Amazon.com, and as a Kindle e-Book)[5]

In 2008, Gooch was the subject of a documentary film: From the Bottom.

In 2012, Gooch was presented the 2012 Trailblazers Award from the Kansas African American Museum in Wichita.[2]

In 2013, as he approached age 90, the Kansas Senate issued Senate Resolution No.1770: A Resolution congratulating and commending Senator Ulysses Lee "Rip" Gooch,[2] and Gooch, with friends and supporters, organized a 90th birthday party for him that drew hundreds to a local theater.[25][26]

In May, 2014, he was elected "Sergeant at Arms" of the "Jayhawk Chapter" (Kansas) of the Black Pilots Association.[20]

Gooch currently (2014) resides in northeast Wichita, Kansas.


  1. ^ a b c Associated Press, Oldest state senator leaving post, December 20, 2003, Topeka Capital-Journal,
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Senate Resolution No.1770: A Resolution congratulating and commending Senator Ulysses Lee "Rip" Gooch, Kansas State Senate, 2013
  3. ^ a b "Gooch and Johnson honored as aviators," Sept. 6, 2001, Wichita Business Journal
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Gooch, U.L. "Rip" with Glen Sharp, Black Horizons: One Aviator's Experience in the Post-Tuskeegee Era,2006, Aviation Business Consultants, Wichita, KS. (Self-published autobiography, partially published online at Google Books, and distributed by Amazon.com
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Harris, Richard (former Chairman, Kansas Aviation Centennial), book review of Black Horizons: One aviator’s experiences in the Post-Tuskeegee Era, (by U.L. "Rip" Gooch), AAHS Flightline newsletter, No. 192, First Quarter, 2016, pp.10-11, American Aviation Historical Society, retrieved 2016-07-09.
  6. ^ a b Associated Press, State Rights Commission Aggressive Force, Garden City Telegram, May 6, 1971, page 3
  7. ^ a b c d U.L. "Rip" Gooch - Legislator, aviator and activist, website of the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, Office of the Governor, State of Kansas, Sept. 13, 2013 (retrieved Oct.29, 2014).
  8. ^ a b c d e Associated Press (John Hanna), "Legislature ends session with nod to senator,", May 30, 2003, Lawrence Journal-World
  9. ^ a b c d e Associated Press, "Senate Honors Oldest Member Before 2003 Adjournment", May 30, 2003, Salina Journal, page 3
  10. ^ a b c d e f g Chance, Carl, ed., "Kansas Governors Aviation Honor Awards: U. L. 'RIP' GOOCH,", WingsOverKansas.com, Nov. 12, 1993
  11. ^ Johnson, Judith R., Ph.D. (History) and Craig L. Torbenson, Ph.D. (Geography), "Stories from the Heartland: African American Experiences in Wichita, Kansas", from Kansas History - Winter 1998/1999, (Vol. 21, No. 4), Kansas Historical Foundation, Topeka, Ks., pp.221-233
  12. ^ Gianoulis, Tina, "Wayne Jones Biography: Taught to Reach for His Goals, Began Career at Boeing, Advanced Through Education and Experience", JRank Articles, JRank.com, 2005, based on interviews with subject, and information about him (and honors received) from websites of the National Society of Black Engineers, award remarks: "Lifetime Achievement In Government: Wayne Jones, Ph.D."; and University of Oklahoma College of Engineering bio: "Board of Advisors: Wayne Jones, PhD.".
  13. ^ a b Campbell, Jim, ed., "Who Is Rip Gooch And Why Do We Owe Him? 80-Year Old Aviation Pioneer Feted In Wichita,"Aero-News Network online, Sep 15, 2003
  14. ^ a b Weems, Robert E., Jr., "Commentary: Past and Present Wichita's Black Entrepreneurs", KMUW-FM radio (public radio station at Wichita State University), Feb. 6, 2013]
  15. ^ Freeman, Paul, Buckley Aircraft Airfield / Rawdon Field / Copeland Field / Beech North Airport , Abandoned & Little-Known Airfields - Kansas - Wichita area, (revised 7/30/2014; downloaded Oct. 25, 2014)
  16. ^ "New Products: A Vote for the Remote Compass", FLYING Magazine, March, 1968 (retrieved Oct.29, 2014 from Google Books), page 111 (Gooch and his "Mooney Mart" business in Wichita noted)
  17. ^ Tihen, Dr. Edward N., historian, "Tihen Notes - 1962", Wichita State University Special Collections "Tihen Notes" archives summarizing Wichita Eagle newspaper articles 1872-1972, citing Wichita Eagle, Tuesday, February 6, 1962, page 5A.
  18. ^ United States Office of Minority Business Enterprise, U.S. Government, "Service Firm Diversifies Under Federal Contract", Office of Minority Business Enterprise Outlook - 1972, Vol. 1, Washington, D.C, 1972 (Original from Pennsylvania State University, digitized Apr 2, 2014 on Google Books), page 4: CAPTION: "U. L. Gooch, right, president of Aero Services, Inc., talks with line employee at Wichita, Kan. plant. The plant was tooled to handle repair and overhaul of UH-l Bell Helicopter rotor hubs under a $100,000 Federal [contract]..."; TEXT: "Prior to 1970, Aero Services, Inc. of Wichita, Kan., dealt mostly in air charter..."
  19. ^ U.L. Gooch, pilot, Letter: "Smitty the Jumper", Flying Magazine, May 1960, page 8
  20. ^ a b Noble. Horace - "Jayhawk at Skyhook 2014; Senator U.L. "Rip" Gooch attends Skyhook 2014", Sept. 2014, BPA ATIS newsletter, Black Pilots of America, Pine Bluff, Arkansas; notation that Gooch was an original member of the black aviation organization "Negro Aviation International, Inc.," before transferring to the BPA, and notes his attendance at "Skyhook 2014" -- "premier event of Black aviation." Reports his May 2014 election as Sergeant-at-Arms of the Jayhawk Chapter of the BPA.
  21. ^ Moon, Chris, "Lawmakers wrap up short session: Senators honor oldest member of Legislature with resolution," May 30, 2003, Topeka Capital-Journal / CJOnline.com
  22. ^ Associated Press, "Betts to replace Gooch in Senate," January 13, 2004, Topeka Capital-Journal / CJonline.com
  23. ^ Bonita Gooch, HistoryMakers.com
  24. ^ Black History Month Profile: Bonita Gooch - General News - News: USTA Missouri Valley, United States Tennis Assn.
  25. ^ Plumlee, Rick, "90th birthday party planned for Rip Gooch," Sept. 6, 2013, Wichita Eagle
  26. ^ Rip Gooch 90th Birthday Gala Sept 14, 2013, photos, MyPictureman on SmugMug.com

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