William L. Moore’s letter to Governor to be finally delivered

“William Moore” by Phil Ochs
What price the glory of one man?
What price the glory of one man?
What price the hopes,
What price the dreams,
And what price the glory of one man?

And they shot him on the Alabama road
Forgot about what the Bible told
They shot him with that letter in his hand
As though he were a dog and not a man
And they shot him on the Alabama road

“I was made to wish for more—more than the mere possible or even the probable. I must pursue the impossible . . . Whether I go forward as Don Quixote chasing his windmill or as the pilgrim progressing must be left for you to decide . . . I can only give my life.” —The Mind in Chains: The Autobiography of a Schizophrenic, William L. Moore

William Moore was a mail carrier who chose to walk from Chattenooga, TN to Jackson, MS to  hand deliver a letter to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett asking for an end to segregation. He wore a sandwich board placard which read:  “End Segregation in America: Equal Rights for All Men” and on the other side read “Eat at Joes–Black and White.”   He had spoken with a Floyd Simpson in the morning of  April 23, 1963 and found dead later that day.  The gun used was owned by Floyd Simpson but he was never convicted for the murder.   Other freedom walkers in the weeks that followed after Mr. Moore’s death tried to complete his freedom walk.  They were all thwarted in Alabama or in Mississippi. 

In the letter he hoped to deliver included the following: “The white man cannot be truly free himself until all men have their rights. Each is dependent upon the other. ”   These words are still true today, and a group of men and women are walking this week from Highway 11 in Gadsden, Etowah County, AL, where Moore was murdered to Jackson, MS to finish his postal route and will deliver the original letter to Governor Haley Barbour. 

William Moore was also an atheist.  Those marching with the letter are members of the American Atheists.     So they are marching not only in memory of William Moore and to complete his task of delivering this letter, albeit 45 years later, so that history will not be able to record that his mission was forever unrealized.   But also with the message of honoring the freedom of conscience.  It was never clear if Moore was killed for his equal rights stance or his atheist beliefs.  He proudly proclaimed them both to all who would listen.   

Freedom of conscience is as radical an idea for 21st century America as it was for our American founders who ensured that this country would have religious freedom of thought.  Even the right to not believe.

He was made to wish for more.  This week his legacy is remembered and we all will wish for more– more equality for all people in this land, more honor and respect for the freedom of conscience in this land.  Blessings, Rev. Fred L Hammond 

Published in: on May 5, 2008 at 5:31 am  Comments (2)  
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  1. Bill Moore appealed for an end to colonialism. Historically, slavery & racism would not have been such a giant problem without the practice of setting up colonies as agents of theocracies The notion of “chosen people” is the first sentence of the former South African Constitution, in force as late as 1994 where racism & apartheid was quite similar to 1963 Mississippi. As Bill Moore wrote, British colonialists retreated from their violent empires while French fought to control Vietnamese Catholics over Vietnamese Buddhists. Just as Cardinal Spellman dictated to President Kennedy & Johnson. Violence, whether by a redneck in Alabama or Napalm on a villager, is still violence rooted in bigotry “forgiven” by theocrats. Superiority, whether burning gel from aircraft or a gunshot to an innocent head, is not superiority at all, but bigotry would have the perpetrator think so. When the world’s rulers seek to help “brothers” not do violence to them, then Bill Moore will not have died in vain. Bill Moore marched for more than a principle of 1787 & 1791, he marched for justice face to face with one who could order an end to Jim Crow. World wealth disparity now is far worse than 45 years ago. Perhaps there are fewer battlefield victims but there are far more marketplace victims. Colonialism remains the problem & Bill Moore was marching with his eyes on the prize of peace.

  2. We did deliver the letter to Jackson Miss. Sadly, the Governor, Haley Barbour would not meet with us to accept the letter. I made a video for current.com titled “45 years to deliver a letter”


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