James R. Goodman was born in 1933 in Riverton, Wyoming. After graduation from Riverton High School he attended the University of Wyoming (UW) where he obtained his B.S. in civil engineering in 1955. He began his career in engineering as a bridge designer for the Wyoming Highway Department. In 1957, he began teaching full time at Colorado State University (CSU), while pursuing an M.S. which he completed in 1961. His Ph.D. was obtained in 1967 from the University of California, Berkeley. He continued his career at CSU in teaching and research until 1988. During his tenure at CSU, he directed many master's and Ph.D. students and pioneered research in wood engineering applications, producing more than 200 journal publications. He also led development of load and resistance factor design standards for engineered wood structures (ASCE Standard 16).
Goodman was co-founder and president of the engineering firm EDM (now EDM International) in Fort Collins, Colorado. From 1992 to 1997 he was head of civil engineering and later served as academic vice president at the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. Following this he conducted collaborative research on wind issues for manufactured housing with faculty and students at UW. He also returned to classroom teaching and taught several classes at UW and CSU. He now resides in St George, Utah with his wife, Evalynn and is actively publishing music. Together he and his wife have five children and ten grandchildren.