Dr. Kenyon Godwin is taking the reins as the new chairman of the board of the Greater Arlington Chamber of Commerce.
Yes, I know, that happens every year, and there’s been lots of business leaders over the 77-year history of the Chamber to occupy that office (including me). But there’s something of historic consequence about Dr. Godwin’s turn with the gavel.
My wife and I first met him when he was a guest of one of this magazine’s events we hosted for a Texas Rangers game at our old office in The Ballpark in Arlington overlooking the baseball field.
Learning that he was a chiropractor, I engaged him in a conversation about my wife’s ongoing back trouble that was the consequence of her having fallen out of our backyard swing when its chain broke some years earlier.
He told me he specialized in dealing with that kind of injury that had long-term effects. I shared that conversation with my wife and told her she needed to get an appointment with him to see if he could help.
With neither of us having ever seen a chiropractor, she was hesitant, and it took some time for her to call his office for an initial visit to evaluate her condition.
Now, I’ll make this long story short: Dr. Godwin has been caring for her, me and other of our family members for the past several years.
At his interview during the recent gathering of Chamber members and others for the annual banquet, he described his journey that brought him to his induction as the board chairman.
He recalled what were just two routes for teen-aged black boys finishing high school: “There were drug dealers and those who went to the military.
“My cousin Perry served in the U. S. Army for 20 years, and when he came home for a visit, he drove me around and said, ‘You are too smart to stay here. Whatever you do, make sure you leave because there is a whole world out there, and you need to see it.’ That became my inspiration to leave and join the Air Force at age 17.”
For eight years he remained in the service, where he met his wife, Courtney. “I loved serving my country, and so did she – everything you see me do is an extension of that. We stand together as one.”
Learning about the practice of chiropractic care in the service seemed to resonate with him. “I realized it was for me – it was holistic, natural care for the body. I prayed, and God showed me it was what I was supposed to do.
“I discovered Arlington and set up my practice here. I also met a lovely lady, Judy Rupay, who told me I should join the Chamber. So, I did.”
Kenyon moved into service beyond that of just being a member. He became an ambassador, major investor and was recognized as the recipient of the Veteran-owned Small Business of the Year award. Later he joined the board of directors, then the executive committee.
“I just wanted to add value and never imagined I would emerge as chairman.”
Now for this history-making part of his story – he’s the first black chairman in the organization’s 77 years of serving the community.
“I understand I’m not the first deserving of this position. There are other black businessmen and women who could have been here – it would be wrong of me to believe that I am the first deserving.
“There are two concepts I see. The first is the Chamber’s mission that says, ‘Together We Succeed,’ so walking into this role all can see we are doing this together.
“The second is to embrace Arlington’s claim as the American Dream City, and being able to do this is a loud statement across the world that the American Dream is not just for some Americans, but for All Americans.”
The year ahead for the Chamber is in the best of hands.