Moore was born on the Wilkin plantation near the Grenada and Carroll County lines. Proud of his family roots, Moore liked to tell about his grandfather, a slave who lived to be 104: “He couldn't read or write, yet he accumulated more than a section of land and had [about] … twenty thousand dollars … saved when he died."
Left on his own at fourteen after his mother died in 1925, Moore completed high school but could not realize his dream of a college education. Through the rest of his life, however, he worked hard to educate himself.
Even before leaving Mississippi to fight in the war, Moore was involved in race relations, once organizing a successful rally of 10,000 blacks in his hometown. He served over three and a half years in the United States Army including time overseas before returning to his job at the U. S. Post Office where he had worked since 1935.
After the war, Moore opened a gas station, beauty shop, and grocery store on Highway 61 in Cleveland, Mississippi. His business also served as headquarters for the area’s civil rights efforts. At his gas station, which was one of the very few African-American owned ones, he refused to have separate white and black bathrooms.
Regional Council of Negro Leadership
Beginning in 1951, Moore, Aaron Henry and Medgar Evers worked with Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a self-made entrepreneur, fraternal organization leader, and surgeon, to build the Regional Council of Negro Leadership (RCNL). The RCNL sought to encourage entrepreneurship, self-help, and civil rights in the Delta. He participated in the RCNL's campaign to boycott gas stations that failed to provide restrooms for blacks. His gas station was one of the few that allowed blacks to use restrooms between Memphis and Vicksburg. During this period, Moore also belonged to the United Order of Friendship, a fraternal society headed by Howard to provide low-cost medical care to blacks.
In August 1955, as word first got out that Emmett Till was missing, Evers and Moore quickly became involved, disguising themselves as cotton pickers and going into the cotton fields searching for anything that would help find the young Delta visitor. Moore asserted, after collecting stories first hand from the field laborers, that whites had murdered thousands of blacks over the years and thrown their bodies into the region’s swamps, rivers, and bayous.
Other Civil Rights Movement activism
Moore conceived of the voter registration campaign that was later the centerpiece of Freedom Summer in 1964. The local leader welcomed outside help including SNCC organizer Robert Parris Moses, coming into the Delta from New York City to build the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee or SNCC. Moses later said that Moore was a guiding force from the start.
His house was used as a "revolving dormitory" and "safe house" for activists during the movement's voter-registration drives in the 1960s, recalled Margaret Block, a friend. Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Young, John Lewis, Thurgood Marshall, and Rev. Jesse Jackson were some of his guests.
- David T. Beito and Linda Royster Beito, Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2009)
- John Dittmer, Local People: the Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (1994 book).
- Charles M. Payne, I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle or the MFS (1995 book).
- Beito, David and Linda (2009). Black Maverick: T.R.M. Howard's Fight for Civil Rights and Economic Power. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 978-0-252-03420-6.