55 Years Later, Oklahoma School Gets Its Lost 1960s Library Book Back — and $1,000 for Late Fees

Photo credit: NewsOK

This article is one in a series at The 74 that profiles the heroes, victories, success stories, and random acts of kindness to be found at schools all across America. Read more of our recent inspiring profiles at The74million.org/series/inspiring.

Brent Gooden was “mortified” when he discovered a Kaiser Elementary School library book in his attic — 55 years overdue. So, he made a lesson out of himself, returning the book, attaching a $1,000 check to the school district to cover the late fee, and reaching out to the current generation of Oklahoma City students about the importance of reading.

Gooden, 62, found the classroom classic Our New Friends while cleaning his home and immediately heard the voice of his mom in his head scolding him. “I was immediately mortified, because I know that my mom would be extremely upset that we did not return the book in a timely fashion,” he tells The Oklahoman. “The only thing to do was do the right thing.”

Along with the worn text, Gooden sent the check and a letter to The Foundation for Oklahoma City Public Schools. Half of the $1,000 went to the foundation to support district schools. The other $500 paid for 35 new books for the Kaiser Elementary School library.

The 1960s oversight — Gooden says the book likely just got lost in the shuffle of life — gave him the opportunity to share his appreciation of the school. “He didn’t forget where he came from,” says Mary Melon, president and CEO of the foundation. “He knows what a difference Oklahoma City Public Schools has made in his life.”

Kaiser students found Gooden’s story fascinating — including the part about holding onto a library book for more than half a century. “He really inspired me to turn in your books,” Jade Sossa, 11, told KFOR after Gooden visited the school. “I think it was really nice of him to do that, since he had to pay that fee that he had from his book.”

Gooden, now a public relations executive in Edmond, Oklahoma, wants to use his 55-year folly as a springboard to “get involved and do something to help the next generation that are aspiring to do wonderful things.”

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