“Mr. good Will”

by David Cox, President & CEO

On Tuesday, April 16, 2019, Goodwill Industries lost a good friend.

Will A. Courtney, known by many as “Mr. good Will,” leaves behind a legacy of selfless service to our organization that spans 55 years.

On several occasions I heard Will speak of his inspiration to serve Goodwill.  As a young man, he had been captivated by the words of John F. Kennedy when he famously said “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”  These words resounded deeply with Will, and soon after hearing them he signed onto the local board of Goodwill Industries of Fort Worth.  That was 1964, and he remained on the board until his passing this week.  Will cared deeply for the people served by Goodwill – those with disabilities, disadvantages; those needing a second chance.  He knew that this “freedom of man” that JFK spoke of could be found in independence; independence that Goodwill offers to those who seek not an open hand, but an open door of opportunity.

Will was a tireless advocate for Goodwill; not only giving generously of his time, business expertise and financial resources; but caring deeply for each person that crossed the threshold of the Goodwill headquarters that bore his name, the Will A. Courtney Center for Career Development.  Will took great pride in personally speaking at many of our graduation ceremonies, and he took those opportunities to remind our graduates of the importance of giving back…  to serve…  to pay it forward… lessons that Will Courtney exemplified through his own service.

In my eyes, Will Courtney was larger than life.  I can still see this one-of-a-kind Texas gentleman walking into Goodwill, sporting his signature cowboy hat and custom-made boots featuring the Goodwill logo stitched into the leather.  And when Will spoke, people listened.  Everyone respected Will for his business savvy and his wisdom – wisdom that can only be achieved through a lifetime of work toward a common cause.

We couldn’t keep this wisdom to ourselves here in Fort Worth, it needed to be shared.  Our own “Mr. good Will” made his way to Washington, DC, to serve on the boards of both Goodwill International and Goodwill Global.  In 2014 he was honored as the first volunteer in the history of our organization to receive a place in the Goodwill Industries Hall of Fame (the first honoree being our founder, the Reverend Edgar J. Helms.)  Helms once famously said, “Friends of Goodwill, be dissatisfied with your work until every person in your community has an opportunity to develop to their fullest usefulness and enjoy a maximum of abundant living.”  Helms and Will Courtney were of like mind; and indeed Will Courtney never rested, not when it came to Goodwill!  Up until a few weeks before his passing, Will still took great interest in the work of Goodwill, calling for updates on the business and the programs serving our community.  I would enjoy discussing these issues with Will; and when he was satisfied with the answers he would sign off with his usual, “you’re doing a great job…keep up the good work!”  I can’t begin to tell you how much these words meant to me, and still mean to me today.

Will Courtney was a giant in Goodwill.  He was a hero, a mentor, a friend.  A good friend.  He was our “good Will.”