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Findley Norris Goff and his partner, Chet Lauck, created Lum and Abner, a radio program based on the people of Pine Ridge (Montgomery County). It was one of the longest running and most popular programs ever on radio, heard daily across the country from 1931 to 1955 and broadcast on Armed Forces Radio during World War II. The Pine Ridge partners also successfully transferred their Lum and Abner characters to movies.
Norris Goff was born on May 30, 1906, to Rome and Dora Goff in Cove (Polk County). The family moved to Mena (Polk County) by 1911, where Rome Goff expanded his wholesale general merchandise warehouse business that served stores in several surrounding counties. Another prominent Mena family was the Laucks, and sons Norris Goff and Chet Lauck began building reputations as class clowns and popular entertainers while still in school.
After graduating from Mena High School in 1924, Goff attended the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County) and Oklahoma University, graduating with a degree in business. On August 8, 1929, he married Elizabeth Bullion of Mena. The couple had two children.
Called “Tuffy” since high school, Goff traveled to small general stores throughout the area, ostensibly to learn the family business. Instead, he spent most of his time talking to the old-timers around the pot-bellied stove. Goff was a gifted mimic, performing in the classroom or on the street corner. His mother later claimed that all the family members were funny, but Goff was the only one who got paid for it.
Goff and Chet Lauck had become well known for their off-the-cuff routines at many local events and so were invited to represent Polk County in a statewide charity radio broadcast in Hot Springs (Garland County). Their Lum and Abner skit was instantly popular, and within a few months, they were performing on network radio in Chicago and, within a few years, were famous nationwide.
The Goff family lived in Chicago from 1931 to 1938 while Lauck and Goff built successful show business careers. In 1939, the families moved to Hollywood, California, where they continued Lum and Abner on the radio while making seven Lum and Abner movies.
Goff and Lauck retired from regular radio and movie performances in 1955, having broadcast 5,800 live fifteen-minute programs and several hundred thirty-minute programs. Goff and his family remained in southern California, and he continued to work, occasionally as a guest star on television programs such as Gomer Pyle, USMC.
Goff died on June 12, 1978, in Palm Desert, California, where he is buried.
For additional information:Cates, Michael, ed. Mena’s Centennial History, 1896–1996: A Photographic History of the City of Mena, Arkansas. Murfreesboro, AR: Looking Glass Press, 1996.
Lum and Abner Museum. Pine Ridge, Arkansas.
Strucker, Kathryn. Hello, This is Lum and Abner: The Story of Lum and Abner’s Jot ‘Em Down Store in Pine Ridge, Arkansas. Pine Ridge, AR: Lum and Abner Museum, 1992.
Kathryn Moore StuckerLum and Abner Museum
Last Updated 4/26/2013
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