Tom Ed Gooden of Pasadena, Texas departed his earthly life on December 8, 2019. He was born on December 26, 1952 in Morrilton, Arkansas, the son of Lowell and Lela Gooden of Clinton, Arkansas, who preceded him in death. He lived in Clinton during his early elementary years until his parents moved to Carlisle, Arkansas, where he quickly began to demonstrate his athletic prowess. As a high school standout in three sports, football became his favorite as he excelled as quarterback, punter and placekicker. Gooden won the Arkansas Decathlon in 1970.
Tom Ed continued his athletic accomplishments at Harding University in 1970. He reportedly scored a touchdown on his first carry as a freshman. After becoming the starting quarterback midway through his sophomore season, the Harding Bisons enjoyed a 19-5 record under his leadership as longtime Coach John Prock implemented the wishbone offense to perfection. He also punted and placekicked all four seasons. One competitor head coach in the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference reportedly quipped following a loss, “Gooden is the closest thing to a one-man team I’ve ever seen. It’s almost unbelievable how many ways he can beat you.” The 1972 Bisons recorded a 10-1 record, a conference co-championship, a post-season victory in the Cowboy Bowl and a number six ranking in the final NAIA national poll. Tom Ed was named NAIA first-team All-American in 1973 and was inducted into the first Harding University Athletics Hall of Fame in 1989.
After graduating from Harding in 1974, Tom Ed was the first ever Bison chosen in the NFL Draft when the Cleveland Browns selected him in the 11th round. In addition to the Browns he had stints with the St. Louis Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys. Gooden’s coaching path included assistant positions at Benton (Arkansas) Junior High and Greenville (Texas) High School before he returned to Harding University in 1979 to join Prock’s coaching staff. His high school career included head coaching stops at Monticello and White Hall in Arkansas before returning to Texas in 1988 at Cameron Yoe. After a successful tenure at Terrell High School he was the inaugural head coach at Pasadena Memorial High School. Gooden then served as athletic director at Goose Creek ISD in Baytown before retiring in 2016. He was inducted into the Terrell Tiger Athletic Hall of Fame in 2010.
Tom Ed is survived by the love of his life, Denise, to whom he was married for 45 years. They have one son, Lance Gooden of Terrell, who serves as U.S. Congressman from Texas’ 5th District. Lance and his wife Alexa have given Tom Ed and Denise two grandchildren, Liam and Milla. Other survivors include one brother and sister-in law, Benny and Martha Gooden of Fort Smith, Arkansas, two nephews Michael and Marcus Gooden and one niece LeighAnn Gooden-Wilkes. He is also survived by a host of personal and professional friends.
Tom Ed and Denise are active members of the Southeast Church of Christ as they had been in each community where they served. These faith-based relationships were but a strong complement to the educational career to which he was devoted. The influence of coaches transcends the wins and losses, the x’s and o’s of the playbook or the end-of-season banquet speeches. Tom Ed Gooden understood the importance of not only preparing players of all ages for the next game but preparing them for life. His coaching career and his athletic leadership gave him an opportunity to teach by example while helping others to achieve their best. Through his work in training young people in sports and building character for successful contributions as adults, Tom Ed’s influence truly extended to thousands.
Family and friends will gather on Sunday, December 15, 2019 at 2:00 pm to celebrate the life of Tom Ed Gooden. The service and a visitation immediately following will be held at the Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 Bay Area Boulevard, Friendswood, TX.
In an effort to benefit others with Tom Ed’s pattern of service, the family requests contributions in lieu of flowers to Terrell Share Center, 103 Jones Street, Terrell, TX 75160 or Hope for Haiti c/o Southeast Church of Christ, 2400 Bay Area Boulevard, Friendswood, TX 77546.