Mrs. Harriette V. MooreJune 19, 1902 - January 3, 1952
Mr. Harry Tyson MooreNovember 18, 1905 - December 25, 1951
By DeLaura Junior High School
"Harriette and Harry T. Moore are unique in American history as being the only husband and wife team to have sacrificed their lives through assassination, for championing the ideals we as Americans have been taught is our birthright. It remains a matter of pride that they are from Brevard, but, equally, it is a matter of shame that they were slain here. Those responsible for this terrible crime were never brought to justice." 1
Mrs. Harriette V. Moore was born June 19, 1902, in Mims to Mr. and Mrs. David and Annie Simms. Mr. Harry Tyson Moore was born November 18, 1905, in Houston, Florida which is near Tallahassee. His father died in 1915 and his mother Mrs. Rosa A. Moore supported the family by teaching school. Mr. Harry T. Moore, finished high school in Houston and attended the Florida Normal College there. He continued his education and graduated from Bethune-Cookman College with a Bachelor of Science Degree. He taught school in Houston, Titusville, Cocoa, and Mims, Florida.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore grew up in rural Florida at a time when there was no Civil Rights movement. It was a time when there was no such thing as Black Rights, as any Black person who dared to use a "White" restroom or drink from a "White" water fountain, might get tossed into jail for "creating a disturbance". If a Black person tried to vote they might get a visit and a beating or worse from the Ku Klux Klan.
Although few Blacks in those days were willing to challenge, for obvious reasons, the concept of White supremacy, Mr. Harry T. Moore, a shy, soft-spoken and studious man and his wife became the first American Civil Rights leaders to be assassinated because they dared to speak out for freedom and justice for all. Their martyrdom need remind us all of the sacrifices that have been made and the need for seeing that equality for all becomes a reality.
In 1934, Mr. Moore's cousin was frightened when he told Mr. Moore that he had received some pamphlets from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) but Mr. Moore said "This is what I've been looking for." 2 As Mr. Moore experienced firsthand the inequities of the Jim Crow educational system in Florida, with hand-me-down books and ramshackled schools where Black teachers were routinely paid less than White teachers. Within the year, Mr. Moore had founded the Brevard County Branch of the NAACP and had begun to gather evidence to prove that Black teachers were being discriminated against.
In 1938, which was sixteen years before Brown vs. Board of Education which brought about the desegregation of schools, Mr. Moore launched the first lawsuit to challenge payment schedules for Black teachers in Florida. This case failed, but it led to another case that started the process for equalizing teachers salaries among the races.
The work on behalf of the Black teachers eventually cost Mr. Moore his job as principal of the three-room elementary school in Mims, Florida where he and his wife taught with one other teacher. Mrs. Moore along with teaching, cooked in a makeshift kitchen in a cloakroom adjoining her classroom, which was for many of the children their only hot meal of the day.
After school and on weekends, the Moore's would crisscrossed the state trying to start new chapters of the NAACP. It was dangerous work, but Mrs. Moore insisted on going along as she wanted to be there if anything happened to her husband. "He said time after time that he knew someone would kill him, but in the face of this impending tragedy, he went on with his work fearlessly."3 His daughter, Evangeline, remembers fearfully riding with him on the long, lonely, county roads on the darkest of nights, sometime being followed out of town or beyond county lines. At the county lines, the headlights would abruptly disappear, but the message remained: Get out and stay out.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore "gave up the beauties of a simple family life, including the lazy evenings and weekends spent merely with family doing fun activities because there was work to be done -- meetings to attend, letters to write to aspiring public officials, lynchings to be investigated, briefs to be prepared in preparation for suits to be filed against blatant injustices"3
In 1941, Mr. Moore was named president of the Florida NAACP and remained a key figure in the organization until he was killed. Although Mr. Moore would occasional receive an anonymous threat, most segregationists left him alone as they figured what could one Black man do in a small rural community. It was not until 1944 that Mr. Moore became insnarled in a collision course with one of Central Florida's most powerful politicians, Sheriff Willis V. McCall, of Lake County. Sheriff McCall was a six foot two, hefty man who wore a six-gallon white Stetson hat and size thirteen boots. He bragged about being investigated more than 37 times by civil rights and other groups, and the signs outside his office designating "White Waiting Room" and "Colored Waiting Room" remained until 1971, when a federal judge finally ordered him to remove them. .In 1944, the U.S. Supreme Court decision abolished the White Primary, which had excluded Blacks from the Democratic Party Primaries. Mr. Moore, helped organize the Florida Progressive Voters League, which registered Black voters and endorsed Political candidates, serving to increase the number of registered Blacks in Florida from 49,000 in 1947 to 116,000 in 1950.
Mr. Moore's activities became too much for the all-White Brevard County School Board, which fired the Moore's in 1947 and made it impossible for him to find another job teaching. The lack of a job did not stop Mr. Moore who now could devote his full time to churning out pamphlets on a home mimeograph machine, endorsing candidates, registering voters, challenging segregated colleges and trains, and investigating police brutality.
One of the police brutalities that Mr. Moore investigated in 1949, concerned a 17-year-old White woman who accused four young Black men of raping her after her car stalled on a rural road, in Groveland, which is in Lake County, under the control of Sheriff McCall. Sheriff McCall led a huge posse along with sheriffs from three adjacent counties who chased one suspect, Mr. Ernest Thomas to a field, where they riddled him with bullets until he died. The other three suspects were put on trial.
The case became know nation wide as Florida's Little Scottsboro, because of the infamous Alabama case in which young Black men were falsely charged with rape. During the trial of the three Florida men, there was no medical testimony to prove that a rape had even been committed. The defense was not permitted to present testimony that the suspects were badly beaten by Sheriff McCall's deputies and they were even denied counsel for 26 days. It only took 90 minutes for the all-White jury to convict the three young Black men, one of whom was only 16 years old.
It took two years and four months of hard work before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the convictions of the lower court and ordered a new trial because Blacks had been excluded from the jury. Sheriff McCall, who was a member of the National Association for the Advancement of White People and president of the Florida Sheriff's Association, drove on the night of November 6, 1951, two of the Black men who had been ordered a new trial by the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state penitentiary in Raifors to Lake County where they were to face a new jury. The two Black men were manacled in the back seat of the police car.
Sheriff McCall claimed that he stopped to check what he thought was a flat tire on the police car that he was driving on a particularly lonesome stretch of road and let the Black prisoners out to go to the bathroom and one of them hit him with a flashlight. So Sheriff McCall opened fire with his .38-caliber Smith and Wesson pistol. One of the Black men survived by playing dead. The surviving man reported that minutes later, Sheriff McCall's deputy arrived and discovered that he was not dead, and shot him again, this time in the neck.
These shootings brought a mob of reporters to Lake County as the NAACP demanded that Sheriff McCall and his deputy be removed from office and charged with murder and attempted murder. Mr. Moore was the most vocal in leading the campaign to raise money for the defendants and had monitored the case from the beginning. In speeches at protest meetings along Florida's East Coast, Mr. Moore demanded that Sheriff McCall and his deputies be prosecuted.
On December 2, 1951, Mr. Moore wrote a letter to Governor Fuller Warren stating that "Florida is on trial before the rest of the world" "Only prompt and courageous action by you in removing these officers can save the good name of our fair state."4 Three weeks and two days later a bomb exploded destroying the lives of Mr. and Mrs. Harry T. Moore.
As Mr. Moore traveled extensively for the NAACP and Mrs. Moore and their daughter Annie taught school in others parts of the state, they were all looking forward to getting together at this time of year. The Moore's were to be together with their daughters and family, for the brief Christmas holidays, and to celebrate Mr. and Mrs. Moore's twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, December 25. The presents had not been opened in the parlor, as they were waiting for the next day when their daughter Evangeline would arrive from Washington, D.C. After have a dinner that evening with Mrs. Simms, Mrs. Moore's mother, the Moore's returned home along with their daughter Annie and Mr. Moore's mother who were to spend the night in the guest room that had been added on to the back of the house.
Mr. and Mrs. Moore retired to the front bedroom and Mr. Moore's mother went to bed in the back bedroom. In between the back guest bedroom and Mr. and Mrs. Moore's bedroom was a bathroom and their daughter's bedroom. Their daughter Annie had crawled under her covers and opened a book to read for a few minutes before she turned out the light. Then there was the indescribable sound of a bomb going off in her parents bedroom, memories of which made it impossible for her to sleep in the dark for the rest of her life.
The bomb exploded about 10:20 p.m. on Christmas night. The explosion threw the bed in which Mr. and Mrs. Moore were sleeping smashing through the pine planks of the ceiling before it crashed back into the ground, burying Mr. Moore and his wife under the mass of debris. The bedroom was completely demolished as every board in the bedroom was torn almost to splinters. There were planks of wood and broken beams on the front porch and which were also scattered throughout the yard. The windows in the master bedroom had been blown out of their frames and dust floated through the heavy fog.
Mrs. Moore's bother, Master Sergeant George Simms who lived about 800 yards from the Moore's, was home on rotation leave after fourteen months of fighting for American in Korea, and he was the first to give aid to Mr. Moore. Another brother, Mr. Arnold Simms lifted the dying Mr. Moore and afterward said that "He didn't feel like there was an unbroken bone in his body."5 The two brothers carried Mr. and Mrs. Moore into a car and raced to the nearest hospital, which was thirty miles away in Sanford. There was only one local ambulance company and it wouldn't transport Blacks. On the way to the hospital, Mr. Moore died in his mothers arms. His wife died in the hospital nine days later, but before she died, she mustered every ounce of her strength to go see her husband's body at the Burton's Funeral Home in Sanford, Florida. In the hospital she not only endured the pain and suffering of her bodily injuries, and the immeasurable grief in the loss of her husband, but the repeated questioning by the FBI.
On January 2, 1952, the day before she died in the hospital, the FBI interrogators stated in their report that: "Mrs. MOORE was shown the glass fragments and the heavy rubber washer and was quite positive that her husband had never had anything similar to a test tube around the house. She said she was quite familiar with what a test tube is as she had taken chemistry in college and to her knowledge she had never seen anything resembling a test tube.." She died January 3, 1952 which was two days after her husband was buried.
The funeral service for Mr. Moore was held at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church in Mims, instead of the Methodist church where Mr. Moore was a member to try and accommodate the hundreds of people that came. State investigators and Mrs. Moore's brothers checked the church for explosives before the service. The flowers were brought from Miami to cover Mr. Moore's casket because local flower shops refused to deliver them to a Black funeral.
The assassination of the Moore's made front pages news around the world, and was discussed at the United Nations, where U.S. delegate Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt warned, "The harm it will do us among the people of the world is untold."6 Yet this warning did not stop the killings, tortures, and dehumanization that continued to take place throughout the United States. Many became martyrs following in the Civil Rights footsteps of the Moore's.
The Moore's murderers were never brought to justice. Mr. Jim Clark a reporter for The Orlando Sentinel obtained an uncensored set of FBI's investigative files on the Moore case that had been setting in a box in the Brevard /Seminole State Attorney's office for more than a decade. He reported that those files showed that six days after Mr. Moore's death, the FBI focused its investigation on the huge Orange County Klan and the FBI spied and tapped phones and were thus able to come up with three suspects. One of the suspects committed suicide after being questioned by the FBI and the other two were listed as having died of natural causes within a year after the murder.
Although the first thing that the FBI did was to interview every Black resident of Mims, they afterward focused on the huge network of the Central Florida Klan but the problem was that nobody would talk. Sheriff McCall admitted that he went to a Klan meeting in Astatula shortly after the bombing and told Klan members that they did not have to talk to the FBI or even give their names. He denied that he was ever a member of the Klan, but admitted that he may have spoke at a Klan meeting where he ended up by chance.
Another journalist and author who had been a friend of the Moore's, Mr. Stetson Kennedy, helped to keep the case alive even though, in 1955, the case of the murder of Harry and Harriette Moore was officially closed. In Miami, a federal grand jury considered the Moore's case and a rash of other terror bombings but produced no indictments, except that six of the Klan members who had been called before the grand jury were indicted on charges that they gave false testimony. They were indicated in 1952 for perjury but were never prosecuted, as the indictments were thrown out by a judge who ruled that the grand jury had no jurisdiction and the U.S. Department of Justice didn't bother to appeal that decision. Mr. Frank Meech, one of the lead FBI agents on the Moore case said "There was no reason to further prosecute. After a few years, the Department of Justice had them (the indictments) quashed for the tranquillity of the South."6 Mr. Clark and Mr. Kennedy were successful in seeing that in September 1991, the Moore's case was reopened by order of Florida's Governor Lawton Chiles. In November 1991, Mr. Stetson Kennedy held a press conference at the NAACP's state convention in Fort Lauderdale and declared that Law Enforcement at all levels had whitewashed the Moore case. The media attention again focused on the Moore case, Geraldo Rivera did a story, but the status of the case remains the same, as stated by the North Brevard County Branch of the NAACP.
- "No one was ever prosecuted for the murders, the case is still officially listed as unsolved.
- In 1978, Raymond Henry, Jr. confessed to making the bomb that killed Harry T. & Harriette Moore, he implicated Sheriff Willie McCall, other lawmen, grove owners, ranchers, and businessmen.
- The FBI refuses to release the taped confession, saying there is not sufficient public interest."
The death and life of Mr. and Mrs. Moore, which is still not in most histories of Florida or even the nation's civil rights movement, remains as a symbol of how much of the history of the the Black's in America is unrecognized. The Moore's greatness and the sacrifices that they made are just now gaining a fragment of appreciation and recognition that they deserve due to the unswerving efforts of those who knew and loved them.
Mr. Clarence Rowe, who is President of the Central Brevard County Branch of the NAACP and has for the past twenty-five years been an employee at Patrick Air Force Base in Satellite Beach, Florida was told May 18, 1992 by his supervisor to remove a photograph of Mr. Moore from where he was working although it was not against the rules to have photos in the area and other workers displayed pictures.
Mr. Rowe had to remove this black-and-white photograph of Mr. Moore, which was devoid of any name or slogans, because the supervisor told him that some of his fellow employees found it offensive. The Florida Today newspaper on June 18, 1992 quoted Captain Ken Warren, a base spokesman, as stating that: "There were some people who were concerned the individual in the photograph was Malcolm X"
Mr. Rowe was given permission to re-hang the photograph of Mr. Moore after the media brought it to the public attention. The Florida Today, in this same article, also quoted Brig. Gen. Jimmey Morrell, 45th Space Wing Commander, in a press release which said: "Neither Mr. Rowe nor anyone else's job will be in jeopardy by expressing their views." Brig. Gen. Jimmey Morrell has since retired and Mr. Rowe's job as of 1995 became null and void.
Mr. Rowe has continued to campaign for years along with Mr. Michael Fitzgerald, esquire, who is Chairman of the Harry and Harriette T. Moore Justice Center and other local civil rights activist to see that an edifice be named in honor of the Moore's. In 1993, a milestone was accomplished by the decision of the Brevard County Commission to name a new courthouse for the slain couple. The future Harry and Harriette T. Moore Justice Center will join the proposed Harry and Harriette T. Moore Multicultural Center on the Brevard Community College's Cocoa campus, along with a park at the Moore's home place to be as living memorials to the couple's dedication and sacrifice.
The Moore's battle for equality continues today. A step towards that goal is the rightful and long overdue recognition of the Moore's in our schools history books. We, the students at DeLaura Junior High School therefore dedicate this supplementary history book to Mr. and Mrs. Harry T. Moore. The Moore's were not violent people, but people who did not let the fear of financial or bodily harm control their lives. The fear that kept them going, was that if they did not stand up and speak out that nothing would ever change. Because of their valiant efforts, changes have been made for the better. They are true heroes and an inspiration to us all.
The students at DeLaura Junior High School, in Satellite Beach, Florida, see a need for a change and it is hoped that this book7 serves as a catalysis to bring about a change in the textbooks within our public schools. Many African-American as well as other minorities have and continue to be robbed of their history in the public school system. A small segment of our school year is set aside for Black History, which is a step, just as is this small supplementary history book. These are only nuggets in a wealth of education about the heritage, struggles, and accomplishments of Americans who have been left out of our history books due to ignorance and prejudice. We have encluded a Ballad of Harry Moore that was written by Mr. Langston Hughes, as it is time that not only our history books, but our literature, math , and science books also reflect the achievements and those that made them.
© 1995 - DeLaura Junior High School,
This paper may be printed and used for research, provided it is kept in one piece, including the 7 footnotes. It may be quoted from in the usual and accepted manner.
1quote from letter written by Representative Jim Bacchus to Brevard County Commissioner Karen Andreas, October 4, 1993.
2quote taken from article written by Ms. Karen Dukess and Mr. Richard Hart for Tropic, February 16, 1992
3quotes taken from letter written August 2, 1993 to Brevard County Board Commissioner Karen Andreas by the only surviving member of Mr. and Mrs. Harry T. Moore's family, Ms. Juanita Evangeline Moore
4 quote from article written by Ms. Karen Dukess and Mr. Richard Hart for Tropic, February 16, 1992
5 quotes from articles printed in The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville, Thursday, December 27, 1951
6quotes from article by Ms. Karen Dukess and Mr. Richard Hart for Tropic, February 16, 1992
7 "Those Left Out - Famous People Left Out Of The History Books," DeLaura Junior High School, Multicultural Research Project, Satellite Beach, Florida, December 25, 1995. Short biographies of 95 historical figures.
Ballad of Harry Moore
This ballad was written by Mr. Langston Hughes
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