Luther Harbert Moore would have liked the company that he was keeping on the front page of the Tuesday edition of The Robesonian — even if he didn’t like the circumstances.
The story on Moore, prompted by the 86-year-old’s death last week, shared the page with a story on the inauguration of this nation’s first black president to a second term, and a story celebrating the legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the man who more than any other made possible the election of Barack Obama to the nation’s highest office.
Moore, a longtime resident of the Prospect community, was also a civil rights crusader, helping speed up the wheels of justice in Robeson County, which clung too long to the Jim Crow South. Moore, like King, worked peacefully within the system — not violently outside of it — to bring change through the ballot box by getting blacks and American Indians registered to vote and to the polls. Most notably, he helped to put an end to double-voting, which allowed whites to maintain control of the school board that ran the county system, which served a majority of American Indian and black students.
At different times he served on the Board of Education for the county system, was a longtime member of the Robeson Community College board of trustees, and served on the Board of Elections.
Despite all this, his name is familiar only to those who followed this county’s politics with a keen eye for the past half century because Moore sought justice — not the spotlight. His grandson, a ninth-grader at Purnell Swett High School, said it better than we could.
“My grandfather always said that it is better to be the tail of something than the head of nothing,” said Edwin Belton Moore.
Moore’s life was one of service, first in the U.S. Navy during World War II, when he acquired firefighting skills he put to use as a member of the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department, and then later as an educator, businessman, church leader and elected official.
His nephew, Bosco Locklear, now a member of the Public Schools of Robeson County, remembered a time that Moore’s business, Moore’s Chainsaw Service, was owed about $120,000 from customers who had been extended credit. “I asked him why he didn’t collect this money,” Locklear said, “and he told me ‘They ain’t got the money to pay.’… That’s the kind of man he was. He would give you the shirt off his back even if he didn’t know you. He would give you money and never ask what it was for or when he would get it back.”
Moore saw a lot during his 86 years in Robeson County, but he can rest easily knowing that he left it a lot better than he found it — a place where the playing field, while still not level, certainly doesn’t tilt heavily in a single direction.