Rusty Goode, who brought jobs and freeways to Charlotte, dead at 86

Former Gov. Jim Martin (left) and Gov. Jim Hunt (right) applauded Seddon "Rusty" Goode Jr. after a new stretch of Interstate 485 from Interstate 77 to N.C. 49 was named for him in 1997.
Former Gov. Jim Martin (left) and Gov. Jim Hunt (right) applauded Seddon "Rusty" Goode Jr. after a new stretch of Interstate 485 from Interstate 77 to N.C. 49 was named for him in 1997. File photo

Seddon "Rusty" Goode Jr., who helped bring thousands of jobs to Charlotte while shepherding construction of an outer beltway around the city, has died at 86.

Goode was born in the Eastern North Carolina town of Clinton and raised in Lakeland, Fla., but made his mark in Charlotte. He helped build University Research Park, 10 miles northeast of the center city, into what is now the region's second-largest employment center with 30,000 people.

He also served on the state transportation board for a decade and, while navigating both Republican and Democratic administrations in the 1980s, served as political architect of the Interstate 485 beltway that encircles the city. In 1997, the state named a new stretch of the outerbelt from I-77 to N.C. 49 in honor of the "Road Czar."

"Rusty was the embodiment of the Charlotte business person of his generation, with an incredible ambition for his city," said Charlotte Chamber CEO Bob Morgan. "He wanted Charlotte to become big time."

Goode was among the business leaders who first envisioned much of what Charlotte has become, Morgan said, with its international airport, pro sports teams, corporate headquarters and research campuses.

Goode graduated Davidson College and, after serving in the Army and earning an MBA from UNC-Chapel Hill, began his business career with Southeastern Financial Corp. He worked as an executive at North Carolina National Bank and at Interstate Securities Corp. when, in 1981, he became president and director of University Research Park.

The park had launched in 1966, with the support of local businesses, on 450 acres near UNC Charlotte. Created as a nonprofit organization with UNCC as the beneficiary, it expanded to include companies with functions ranging from back-office support to corporate headquarters and research facilities. The 2,300-acre park is now transitioning into a live-work-play center.

Darlene Heater, executive director of University City Partners, which manages the research park, called Goode a visionary for the park and the larger area known as University City.

"He held tight to the vision he and other civic leaders created for Charlotte’s University campus and business community," Heater said. "Although his legacy encompasses so much more than University City and University Research Park, our community is blessed beyond measure to have captured his passion and commitment to this place for several decades.”

Olen Smith, who succeeded Goode as president of the research park, credits him with having the business contacts to acquire land and resell it to corporate tenants. Goode also had the good sense, Smith said, to insist on the dual redundant power and extensive fiber infrastructure that attracted data-intensive businesses like IBM and the financial services firm TIAA.

"He was ideal to do that work," Smith said. "He was a hard-charging guy who got things done and was able to find a way to do things. He was an activist. Nobody could have done it other than Rusty, with the timing and the way he brought it about in such a compressed timeframe."

Goode retired from the park in 2006, becoming its vice chairman. But that was only part of his civic work.

He served 21 years on the Carolinas HealthCare System (now Atrium Health) board and 22 years as a Davidson College trustee. He was also a board member of Canal Industries Inc., the N.C. Global TransPark Authority, the N.C. State Ports Authority, the N.C. Advisory Budget Commission, the Charlotte Chamber, the State Teachers Retirement System and the UNC Charlotte Foundation. UNCC awarded him an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in 2007.

At Davidson alone, said vice president for college relations Eileen Keeley, "his fingerprints are everywhere." Goode won the school's alumni service award even before serving more than 20 years on its board, and his contributions ranged from reunion committees to the athletics foundation and Davidson's first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

"He was a straight shooter, ferociously committed to helping position Davidson as the best liberal arts college certainly in the South if not in the country, and single-mindedly focused on what was best for Davidson," Keeley said. "We never felt like Davidson was second to anything else he was doing, and I have to believe that everyone elsewhere felt the exact same way."

Goode is survived by daughters Beth Goode Reigel and Mary Jane Goode and seven grandchildren. A memorial service will be at 11 a.m. Thursday at Covenant Presbyterian Church.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051; @bhender