James P. Goodnight was a farmer and state legislator. He was born on November 21, 1831 and native of Allen County, Kentucky. He was the son of Henry and Jane (Billingsly) Goodnight. He grew up on the family farm and received a strong academic education. Goodnight married Mary A. Hill on September 21, 1854. Two months later they in Dallas County and purchased 220 acres of land that would become their family farm.
Goodnight became a leader of the Lisbon, Texas, community. He served as a constable for Precinct Seven of Dallas County. Goodnight was county assessor and collector from 1858–1862 and again in 1866. He was chosen to represent Dallas County in the House of the Ninth Texas Legislature after James Thomas resigned; he served from February 2, 1863, to November 2, 1863. During the Civil War Goodnight joined the Thirty-first Texas Cavalry in 1863 and served in Trezevant C. Hawpe’s Company A in the Commissary Department.
In 1870 he began a two-year term as county treasurer, and in 1876 he was elected assessor again. He went into business with Emory A. Gracey in 1880. The two had a gin and threshing business in Lisbon. Goodnight and his family were members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church where he was a ruling elder. He was also a Mason and had a Royal Arch degree of the A.F. & A.M. in Dallas. He identified with the Democratic party.
He and his wife were both members of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, of which he was a ruling Elder. The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Goodnight
were thirteen in number, nine of whom lived to be grown, namely: Jane P., wife of
A. H. Nash, of Dallas; Isaac Henry, of this county; Amanda Ellen, wife of W. T. Gracey, of Stephens county, Texas; Thomas M., of Dallas; John B., of this county; Fanny L.; Frank H.; Allie M., wife of B. F. Johnson; Jaines P. William B. died at the age of ten years, and the others died in infancy
Courtesy Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County, 1892 edition.