Standing tall: Jim Goldsworthy’s faith-forward leadership in Gainesville makes a positive impact for parish, school, and community
By any measure, Jim Goldsworthy is a very successful businessman, but the most important things he’s done have nothing to do with making a buck. In fact, one of his enduring legacies may have cost him.
First, the business. After working as a State Farm Insurance agent in Tulsa and Dallas, he and his wife, Jennifer, moved to Gainesville in 1992 where he opened an agency, which has grown to 15 employees. He proudly notes the agency is ranked fourth best out of approximately 20,000 State Farm agencies in the U.S., and he gives credit to his terrific team.
Now for more important matters — faith, community, and family.
Goldsworthy, who attended Catholic schools growing up in Oklahoma City, joined St. Mary Parish in Gainesville when he arrived in Cooke County. Shortly thereafter, the pastor noted his height and asked him to coach the basketball team at St. Mary Catholic School for a year. He continued for 25 years, long after his four sons had graduated from the school.
He has a long record of service on the parish’s finance council and pastoral board too. Father John Pacheco, pastor of St. Mary, called Goldsworthy a “very effective leader” in the parish and community, stating his business knowledge is a “helpful voice in my ear” when making practical decisions about parish operations or finances.
Goldsworthy, whose father is a deacon in Oklahoma City, explained his motivation to give generously of his time and resources to St. Mary Parish and its school. He said, “The parish is your second family. That really is true. You want to see your parish succeed. That motivates me to be involved and stay involved.”
Goldsworthy helped organize a cohort of parishioners to purchase and remove old, dilapidated homes around the parish and school, creating a buffer of land.
Van Knight, a St. Mary parishioner and friend of Goldsworthy, shared firsthand knowledge that the group has purchased 20 to 25 properties to date. “It’s a lot to mow. I help mow it, so I know,” he laughed.
Another St. Mary parishioner and friend, Ken Keeler, observed, “No matter what the church or school has asked, he’s done it. He’s served on every council and advisory committee; he’s donated generously. If there’s a need to do something, Jim is the guy who [does] it. He’s a leader.”
As a businessman, Goldsworthy served on community boards and volunteered some of his time and talents to the city of Gainesville. Believing he could have a positive impact on the city of nearly 18,000, Goldsworthy ran for city council, ultimately serving 16 years — including as mayor from 2011 to 2021.
Ask Tommy Moore, who served with Goldsworthy on the city council and succeeded him as mayor, what Goldsworthy accomplished for the city, and he reveals a long list in a short minute.
Goldsworthy hired a city manager, and Gainesville “went from borrowing money to make payroll each week, to now we have 180 days of capital. He led all that,” Moore said.
Moore also explained Goldsworthy created a public/private partnership to remove almost 700 abandoned properties in Gainesville; attracted new businesses to the city; and spearheaded the construction of a large playground in Leonard Park and a new facility for the Boys & Girls Club of Cooke County.
Moore said, “When Jim came in 1992, he fully invested himself in his new community.”
Representing all of us
In 2020, Goldsworthy faced a defining moment in his mayorship as he navigated the city through the removal of a Confederate monument in Leonard Park with a focus on truth, civil dialogue, and community healing.
In May and June, demonstrations across the country sparked by the death of George Floyd put a spotlight on Civil War statues.
Keeler, a Gainesville City Council member since 2011, remembered that Goldsworthy expressed, “‘We should have done something a long time ago. It’s time to correct an injustice.’ And he took it upon himself to do that.”
In researching the history of the monument, the mayor learned the statue was erected in 1908 at the height of the Jim Crow era in the formerly “whites only” section of Leonard Park. The statue of the armed soldier raised a defiant fist toward the “black” section, and the base celebrated Confederate soldiers as “our heroes.”
Knowing the statue wasn’t representative of the city, Goldsworthy “held public meetings, he answered questions. He did everything possible to defuse the situation,” according to Keeler.
Then, people from outside the city descended on Gainesville to protest.
Keeler said people wanting to keep the statue came with “military-style weapons” from neighboring Montague County, and protestors from Denton demanded the monument’s removal.
“It was very intense for several weeks,” Keeler recalled, saying that as many as 90 law enforcement and highway patrol officers kept the peace.
Fr. Pacheco said, “Honestly, this community had to handle the problem, not other people. Jim was able to guide the community through this and come out on top. I have to give it to him — he was very brave,” adding that he said many prayers for Goldsworthy.
Keeler said, “Things got pretty bad, and there was a lot of negative publicity. Some people wanted to remove him from office, and he lost some customers over this.
Jim never blinked an eye. He said, ‘No, we are doing the right thing.’”
The city council voted unanimously to remove the statue and donate it to a museum, then Goldsworthy raised money and made plans for an alternate statue to represent Gainesville, a Medal of Honor host city named “the most patriotic town in America” in 2012.
The new monument is dedicated to unity and patriotism. It features five arms of varying hues lifting a star, atop a base with quotes from Helen Keller, Martin Luther King Jr., and several Medal of Honor recipients.
Goldsworthy completed his tenure as mayor, but he continues to serve his parish and community for a simple reason: God has blessed him, and he wants to help others.
He said, “This isn’t a practice run. You only get one shot at life. It really motivates me to help folks to see what’s possible.”