He never intended to practice law in the same small town where he first went to college, but it’s worked well for Woody Gooding over the past 27 years. “It’s nice to practice in a small town like this one, where business just walks right through your door,” says Gooding with a smile. “I wanted to practice law in a small town, and luckily I had the chance to practice here in Allendale, but I never thought that when I spent my two years at Salkehatchie I would end up practicing law here.” Gooding, who grew up in Hampton County, attended USC Salkehatchie from 1972 to 1974, before going on to the USC campus in Columbia to graduate summa cum laude with a degree in business, then to graduate from the USC School of Law. Initially, he says his reasons for attending the regional campus were financial, but he soon discovered he had made an excellent decision. “I didn’t have the funds at the time to go away to school, to put it bluntly,” he says. “Staying home and not having to pay for lodging was the key. But I cannot tell you what a good education I got there. People always think it’s a small-town, two-year college and it’s probably some place to go just to get your hours; but that is absolutely not the case.” According to Gooding, when he arrived in Columbia, he was well-prepared for upper division business courses, something he credits to the excellence of the Salkehatchie faculty. One of his best memories from his time at Salkehatchie involves a rock band called the Red Hot Chicken Band that he and some friends started. He says they didn’t make any money at it, but they had a great time playing at college dances and other events. Gooding graduated from law school in 1980, then spent two years clerking for a circuit court judge, a position that allowed him to travel the state, assisting the judge with his work. He then married his wife, Beth, also an attorney, and returned to Allendale to go into practice with her. The two have been the principal attorneys in Gooding and Gooding PA since then, and she recently went to part-time status after 23 years to raise their two children. Other attorneys have come into the practice over the years, and Gooding describes their work as general practice, with a primary focus on personal injury and criminal defense. He sees his work as a way to help people, to give back to the community he chose to call home so long ago. John Hetrick, a Walterboro attorney and friend of Gooding, describes Gooding as an excellent attorney who has been very successful during his time in the legal profession. “He is certainly very dedicated to his clients and has a high level of skill,” says Hetrick. Gooding was Phi Beta Kappa and Beta Gamma Sigma at USC. He is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the Allendale County Bar Association, S.C. Bar Association, American Bar Association, S.C. Association for Justice, and the American Association for Justice. Recently, Gooding was inducted into the American Board of Trial Advocates. He was named Allendale County’s Best Attorney by readers of The Allendale Sun in 2009, and Gooding says he’s known as “Uncle Woody” to many people who walk through his office doors. “I don’t really know how that started,” he says with a laugh. “But I guess it has to do with Ricky, my nephew, up at the radio station, calling me that on the air, and people just pick it up. But it shows you the way people are here, how we all know each other. It’s been a great experience, practicing law in a small town.” Gooding and his wife, a fellow Salkehatchie alum with multiple family connections to the campus, are active supporters of this USC campus, strong proponents of the belief that rural areas need places like this to provide access to college for more people. “If there is one thing we need more of in this area, it is education, and Salkehatchie provides that,” he says. “I know first-hand the quality of education students get there. … if I had to do it all over again, I would do the same. Even if I had the money to go somewhere else, I would do it again.”
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