Since 2003 there's always been at least five inductees each year. But in its first year, the Kansas Cowboy Hall Fame inducted only one.
Cowboy Historian Charles "Don" Goodnight was born on March 30, 1928 in Ashland, Kansas to Olis G., Sr. and Iona McKinney Goodnight. He is a descendant of the famed Charles Goodnight of the Goodnight/Loving Trail Drive.
Because Goodnight was such an outstanding cowboy and historian, and in light of his recent passing, organizers felt he should be the first, and only, inductee into the Kansas Cowboy Hall of Fame for 2002.
Goodnight was born and raised on the plains of Meade and Clark Counties. In 1946, he graduated from Englewood (Kansas) High School. From a young age, he dreamed of a life filled with ranching, farming and flying. Pursuing that dream, after a stint in the U.S. Navy, he graduated from the Ponca City, Oklahoma School of Aeronautics in 1950. From there, he moved to Meade where he was a pilot instructor and a farmer. An avid flier, he trained more than 200 pilots, including his own children. As an aviator, he served as a volunteer FAA Flight Safety Councilor.
On June 1, 1952, he married Ellen Painter at the ranch home of her parents, Bill and Blanch (Tillery) Painter located southeast of Meade.
In addition to ranching, farming and flying, his ambitions expanded to preserving the history of his region, and he began collecting and preserving tools utilized by 19th century cowboys. He was President of the Meade County Historical Society and was Honorary Life President of the Old Trail Drivers Association of San Antonio, Texas.
Don also served as a member of the Kansas State Historical Society and of the Pioneer Krier Museum, Ashland. He was a committee member of the Harold Krier Air Show in Ashland. He was very involved with Boot Hill Museum and its activities.
Charles Don Goodnight died January 8, 2000 in Wichita at the age of 71 and is buried at the Englewood Cemetery in Englewood, Kansas. The inscription on his stone fittingly reads "US Navy From Plains To Planes."