A great Floridian with a violent ending

By Alexandra Thompson, Creative Services Associate Producer, athompston@wkmg.com
Published On: Feb 01 2014 11:48:31 AM EST
Harry Tyson Moore Photo

Meet Central Florida Historical Figure Harry Tyson Moore.

Born in Houston, Florida November 18, 1905, Harry Tyson Moore was the only child of Johnny Moore and Rosa Moore. After the death of his father in 1914 Moore was sent to live with his mother's sister in Daytona Beach. The following year he moved to Jacksonville where he lived with another of his aunts, Jessie Tyson.

In 1919 Moore began his studies at the Florida Memorial College. After graduating he became a schoolteacher in Cocoa, Florida. He later became principal of Titusville Colored School in Brevard County.

During his first year in Brevard County, he met an attractive older woman (she was 23, while he was barely 20), named Harriette Vyda Simms. She had taught school herself, but was currently selling insurance for the Atlanta Life Insurance Company. Within a year they were married. Harry T.  Moore and Harriette V. went to become the first true civil rights activitists of the modern civil rights era in the State of Florida.

Harry T. Moore organized the first Brevard County branch of the NAACP in 1934 and became its president. He would later travel throughout the state organizing branches and 1941 organized and became President of the Florida State Conference of NAACP branches

In 1944 he formed the Florida Progressive Voters League which succeeded in tripling the enrollment of registered black voters. By the end of the Second World War over 116,000 black voters were registered in the Florida Democratic Party. This represented 31 per cent of all eligible black voters in the state, a figure that was 51 per cent higher than any other southern state.

In 1949 Moore organized the campaign against the wrongful conviction of three African Americans for the rape of a white woman in Groveland, Florida. Two years later, the Supreme Court ordered a new trial. Soon afterwards, Sheriff Willis McCall of Lake County shot two of the men while they were in his custody. One was killed and other man was seriously wounded.

After the shooting Moore called for the McCall's suspension. A month later, on 25th December, 1951, a bomb exploded in Moore's house killing him and his wife. Although members of the Ku Klux Klan were suspected of the crime, it was never brought to trial.

In August 2006, then Attorney General Charlie Crist released the results of a 20-month investigation into the murder of Harry and Harriette Moore. The fatal bombing of the couple’s home – on their 25th wedding anniversary – was never solved. The investigation pointed to extensive circumstantial evidence that the Moores were victims of a conspiracy by exceedingly violent members of the Ku Klux Klan.

 

In 2007, Moore was designated a Great Floridian.

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