Hayden Goodnight was born in 1899 in Buck Creek, Texas. He was the youngest of 9 children born to I.T. and Grace Goodnight. His father, I.T. was a farmer and distant relative to Colonel Charles Goodnight, legendary Panhandle rancher and inventor of the chuck wagon. His mother, Grace, was a native of Scotland, and immigrated to the United States when she was 6 years old.
Goodnight and his family lived on a farm in Collingsworth county in Northwest Texas. He recalls picking a lot of cotton as a youth. He says "we were raised at it and expected it." "I went to a country school 6 months out of the year when cotton picking was over" says Goodnight. He also had vivid memories of the Dust Bowl days. "We were right in the middle of the Dust Bowl." "Fences drifted in and were covered with dust." "I could walk over fences in many places" he added.
Hayden claims he was "just an average kid," but during his youth he did enjoy participating in athletics. He said "I wasn't extra good, but it beat doing nothing." He played football and baseball for Wellington High School. He recalled the leather helmets he wore as a young high school football player. "I played in the first game that the town of Wellington produced" he said. He also played catcher for the baseball team.
Education played a big part in Hayden's life. He was the only one of his 8 siblings who finished high school. He attended West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas for 2 years. Hayden smiled and said "I didn't study a lot; I had other things to do." One of the most memorable moments of his college days was as a member of his debate team. There were 2 literary societies on campus; the "Cousins" and the "Antlers"." Hayden and his friend Grady Hazlewood decided to join the "Cousins". Both societies faced off in a debate and the "Cousins" won. After the win, the crowd carried them off the platform. Goodnight said "This was the only time I felt honored." He recalls that his friend, Grady, went on to a political career and was later elected to the Texas State Senate.
After college, Goodnight taught school for 2 years in Collingsworth county and later married his wife, Larkie, in 1924. In the next few years the Goodnight family expanded to include 2 daughters and one son. In 1941, they moved from Memphis and made their home in Amarillo. During WWII, Hayden worked as an officer for the Liquor Control Board. After WWII, he worked in sales. He said "I sold just about everything." He worked at the Panhandle Insurance Agency selling insurance for 32 years before retiring in 1989 at the age of 80.
Hayden has been involved in several church and social organization. He is still a Mason in good standing and served as a deacon for many years in the Temple Baptist Church in Amarillo.
Goodnight adds that the secret to living a long and healthy life is to "trust in the Lord."