Harry T. Moore (1905-1951)

Harry Moore
Harry Moore
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Harry Tyson Moore was an African American civil rights leader and founder of the Brevard County, Florida National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). He also served as president of the state chapter of the NAACP. On December 25, 1951, Moore and his wife Harriette Simms Moore were victims of a bombing by the Ku Klux Klan at their home in Mims, Florida. He died of his wounds at the hospital while his wife died nine days later from her wounds.

Harry T. Moore was born on November 18, 1905 in Houston, Florida to Johnny Moore and Rosa Moore. His father died when Moore was nine years old. Unable to take care of Moore, his mother sent him to one of her sisters in Daytona Beach, Florida in 1915. He later moved to Jacksonville, Florida to live with three other aunts, Masie, Jessie, and Adrianna for three years. In 1919, Moore enrolled in a high school program at Florida Memorial College (Now Florida Memorial University). He later graduated from Florida Memorial College in 1925 and accepted an elementary school teaching job in Cocoa, Florida where he would remain for two years.

During this time, he met Harriette Vyda Simms, another teacher, and the couple married in 1926. Moore was promoted to Principal of Titusville Colored School where he taught ninth grade while supervising a staff of six teachers. In 1928, the couple gave birth to their first daughter, Annie Rosalea and two years later to a second daughter, Juanita Evangeline.

In 1934, Moore founded the Brevard County NAACP chapter and three years later filed a lawsuit to equalize black and white teacher salaries in the state. Despite the support of the all-black Florida State Teachers Association and renowned NAACP attorney Thurgood Marshall, Moore lost the lawsuit.

In 1941, Moore organized the Florida State Conference of the NAACP and in 1944, he organized the Progressive Voter League. His leadership of this organization would also lead to the registration of 116,000 new black Florida registered voters. In June 1946, Moore became a full-time paid organizer for the Florida NAACP after he and his wife were fired from their teaching jobs because of their civil rights activities.

In July 1949, four young black men, Ernest Thomas, Charles Greenlee, Samuel Shepherd, and Walter Irvin were accused of raping a 17-year-old white woman, Norma Padgets, in Lake County, Florida. Thomas was later killed by County Sheriff Willis McCall on July 26, 1949. Moore publicly called for McCall’s’ arrest and indictment for murder.

On December 25, 1951, as they were celebrating their 25th anniversary, a bomb that had been planted under their home exploded. Moore died on his way to the hospital and his wife, Harriette died nine days later January 3, 1952. Their deaths led to protests and rallies across the nation. It was later discovered that four high-ranking Florida Ku Klux Klan members, Earl J. Brooklyn, Tillman H. Belvin, Joseph N. Cox, and Edward L. Spivey, planted the bomb under the couple’s home. By the time the evidence was uncovered the four were deceased. Officially the crime remains to this day an unsolved case.