Randall Godwin, 89, owner of the Nomad Village on the Delaware shore, died on Jan. 13 at his winter home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Nomad Village, located in Tower Shores, an area just north of Bethany Beach, was a stalwart of the LGBT community when it was built in 1960 and remained a part of the community until its closure in 2000.
The land that Randall and his wife purchased consisted of 12 A-Frame houses, seven apartments, two bars, a package store and a convenience store serving Tower Shores and the surrounding area.
The history of Nomad Village tells a compelling story about the advances made for the LGBT community in Delaware.
Godwin admitted in an article published in 2000 that, “It’s generally accepted that straights think I caused what was called ‘the gay problem’ in the area.” But he felt it was untrue. Gays had been coming to Rehoboth for many years and there were a number of bars in the Rehoboth area frequented by the gay community, among them the Pink Pony on the boardwalk and another one located where The Pond now sits, which charged one dollar for drinks to gays and sixty-five cents for those who were straight.
Lesbians and gays felt comfortable going to Nomad Village as “Mr. Godwin gained a reputation as a champion of those who were misunderstood or were targets of bias,” according to Ted Cudnick, a bartender who worked for Godwin for about 10 years beginning in 1967.
Godwin not only served the LGBT community but most of his bartenders were members of the LGBT community.
Libby Stiff, a Rehoboth resident, said the Godwins, “fought the county over their zoning designation, and more than once they heard of tales of lawmakers saying they were not going to do anything to keep the queer joint open.” But Godwin persevered.