South Carolina’s faith community lost one of its most prominent members as Mrs. Gladys B. Goforth earned her wings on Monday, August 12, 2019.
Mother Goforth, as she was affectionately known, served as First Lady of Zion Baptist Church for two decades. The widow of the late Rev. Dr. Arthur W. Goforth II, she was a prominent leader in the Gethsemane Women’s Auxiliary, where she was recently named Woman of the Century. She also served as a teacher in Richland School District One.
Mrs. Goforth was born in Columbia and grew up in the State Park community. She was the fourth child in a family of eight children. She was the oldest daughter of the Late Deacon George W. and Mrs. Esther L. Butler. She had a gifted mind. In 1944, at the age of 16, she was recognized as Valedictorian for Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia, SC. It would be the first of a lifetime of awards and achievements Gladys would receive from various civic, religious, and educational organizations.
She was an honor graduate of Benedict College, Columbia, where she earned a degree in Education with a major in French. While there, she was a Charter member of Psi Chapter of Alpha Kappa, Alpha Sorority Inc., and the Alpha Kappa Mu National Honor Society. Goforth is a long-time supporter and a member of the Benedict College Alumni Association. She held the title Miss Benedict College for 1946-47. In May 2017, she was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters by former Benedict President Dr. David H. Swinton.
She went on to earn a Master’s degree in French from New York University.
Dr. Goforth served as the First Lady of Limestone Baptist Church in Gaffney, South Carolina before returning to Columbia and serving as the First Lady at Zion Baptist Church. One of her passions at Zion was writing and directing faith-based plays.
Mrs. Goforth is the epitome of missionary work and service to others. Some of her involvements have included: Zion Baptist as Youth Director (20 years) Emerita, where in 1979 she proposed a specific name for the Junior Church, ZYPCO, a combination of all of Zion’s Youth People’s Christian Organizations. She suggested that such a name was a challenge for the YOUTH to be full of ZIP and ZEAL for the Lord.
With an enthusiastic group of young people and a conscientious group of youth leaders, the ZYPCO’S continues to grow and extend its Christian reach and outreach programs. Zion’s youth were quite active in all the Gethsemane Youth functions, at the local and state level. From the ZYPCO’s, several ministers have evolved: Rev. Ronald McMillan, Rev. Dr. Mary Montgomery, Rev. Arthur W. Goforth, III, Rev. Thurmond Murchison, Rev. Chandra Goforth Irvin, Rev. Quinda Richardson and Elder Natalie Abraham.
Dr. Goforth has also fostered missionary activities in roles of: Church School Teacher, Deaconess Advisor, Drama Coach, Organizer and Advisor to the Young Women’s Auxiliary, Christian Education Commission: Gethsemane Baptist Association and Auxiliaries: 1st VP of the Woman’s Auxiliary Advisor – District YWA, Youth Program Coordinator of Congress and Association of the Women’s Baptist Educational and Missionary Convention of SC (WBEMCSC), Chairperson of the Historical Commission of the WEBEMCSC; various positions (Chaplain – International Alliance of Ministers Wives and Ministers Widow of Greater Columbia and Vicinity, as well as life member of the National Alliance.
Other honors and award recognitions include: Outstanding Minister’s Wife (Gaffney and Columbia), Superb Leadership as Youth State Director, Zion Baptist Church’s Woman-of-the-Year, Outstanding Church Worker, Community Leader and Supporter of Morris College, Living the Legacy by the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW), Gethsemane Youth Department Dedicated Leadership, Gethsemane Woman’s Auxiliary Exemplary Service, Benedict College Outstanding Support, the 2003 Service National Alumni Distinguish Service. In her 42 years of teaching, she was selected three times as “Teacher of the Year,” in Richland County School District One.
She was grateful for her extensive travel experiences in 42 states, 9 European/Asia countries, including the Holy Land, Bahamas and Canada, all of which have afforded her greater witnessing opportunities.
Gladys Butler Goforth is survived by daughter, Min. Chandra Goforth Irvin (Nat), Louisville, KY; son, Pastor Arthur W. Goforth, III (Vanessa); daughter, Ivy Goforth; sister, Esther Ruth Butler Sims; brother, Alphonzo P. Butler; grandchildren, Nathaniel Irvin III, Atlanta; Jovian Z. Irvin Peters (George), Los Angeles; Roman G. Irvin, Atlanta; Jonathan V. Goforth ( Krystal) Irmo; Arthur W. Goforth IV, Virginia Beach; Gabrielle N. Goforth, Chicago; John-Michael Goforth-Stevenson, Atlanta; great-grandchildren, Kailani, Nicolas; and a host of nieces, nephews, relatives and friends.
The celebration of her vivacious and wonderful life will be held Saturday, August 17th, 10:00 a.m. at Zion Baptist Church, located at 801 Washington Street in Columbia, SC. Interment will be held at Crescent Hill Memorial Gardens, Two Notch Road, Columbia, SC. The family will receive friends Friday, 6-7 p.m. at Leevy’s Funeral Home, 1831 Taylor Street. The Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. ceremony, “Ivy Beyond the Wall” will be 5:30-6:00 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests people to please make contribution to the Arthur W. and Gladys Goforth Scholarship Fund at Benedict College.
Dr. Goforth forever exhorts others to join her in accepting Proverbs 3: 5-6 as a life’s philosophy: “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”