Biographical / Historical
Harry Tyson Moore was born on November 18, 1905 to Stephen John "Johnny" Moore and Rosalea "Rosa" Tyson Moore in Houston, Florida. After his father's death in 1914, Moore was sent to live with his maternal aunts in Daytona Beach, Florida. He attended Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial Institute, at the time a high school and junior college, where he graduated with a teaching degree in 1924. He immediately began his first teaching position at the segregated Monroe Elementary School in Cocoa, Florida.
Harriette Vyda Sims was born on June 19, 1902 in West Palm Beach, Florida to David and Annie Simms. Harriette was an insurance agent at Atlanta Life Insurance Company, a prominent Black-owned company, working out of Cocoa, Florida when she met Harry. Harry was also working at Atlanta Life to supplement his meager salary from teaching. Harry and Harriette married on Christmas Day in 1926. To establish themselves, the newlyweds moved in with Harriette's family in Mims, Florida. They had two daughters, Annie, born 1928, and Juanita (Evangeline), born 1930.
The couple enrolled together at the Daytona Normal Industrial Institute, later renamed the Bethune-Cookman College (BCC) after a merger of local African American schools. Harriette earned associate and bachelor's degrees in education in 1941 and 1950 respectively. Harry earned a bachelor's degree in education in 1936. Both Evangeline and Annie attended BCC as well. Annie served as an assistant to Dr. Mary McLeod Bethune.
From 1927-1936, Harry served as a teacher and eventual principal of Titusville Colored Junior High School. Harriette was a teacher and lunch lady at various elementary schools in the area. Troubled by the inequities and lack of educational resources available to African Americans, Harry started the Brevard County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1934. He established the organization with the help of the all-black Florida State Teacher's Association and the support of civil rights lawyer Thurgood Marshall.
In 1937, Moore was involved in a lawsuit regarding teacher pay equality. In Florida, White teachers received a monthly salary of $50 while African American teachers had a base salary of $20. This was the first civil rights case of its kind in the South. Moore's good friend John Gilbert, the principal of the junior high school, served as the plaintiff. The case, Gilbert v. Board of Public Instruction of Brevard County, was lost as many African American teachers were afraid to publicly endorse the case, fearing repercussions. This proved correct as Gilbert and Moore were both fired because of their activism. The Florida Supreme Court dismissed the petition stating that Brevard County was not legally required to change salary schedules based on pay because schools used individual contracts with the teachers. This case laid the foundation for several successful pay equality cases including McDaniel v. Board of Public Instruction in 1941 and County Teachers Association v. the Board of Public Instruction for the County of Marion and Broward in 1942.
Fighting for pay equity for teachers and educational civil rights took Harry and Harriette around the state, organizing and mobilizing community members. In 1936, the Moores took on new positions at the segregated Mims Elementary School and continued their involvement in organizing civil rights cases throughout Florida. In 1941, Harry was appointed the president of the Florida State Conference for the NAACP and later became the executive secretary for the Florida branch. In 1944, Smith v. Allwright ruled that it was unconstitutional for the Democratic Party to limit its membership to White people. This gave Harry the impetus to establish the Progressive Voters League (PVL), a partisan political action group in 1946. Harry believed that African Americans should have the power to vote for whomever is best for their community. Harry kept his work with the PVL separate from his work with the NAACP, despite his leadership role in both. Within a few years of PVL's establishment, there were 100,000 registered eligible African American voters in the state. For the first time in Florida's history, African American citizens were organized and poised to change the outcome of elections. In 1946, this work cost Harry and Harriette their positions at Mims Elementary School. Fortunately, the NAACP, grateful for all of Harry's years of voluntary service, named him the NAACP's first full-time paid executive secretary. Both daughters assisted in creating NAACP Youth Council for the chapter as well.
Harry fought against the gruesome lynching and rampant police brutality taking place in Florida. In 1937, he started investigating cases himself and took an active role in pursuing justice in several unsolved lynching cases around Florida. He regularly sent correspondence about voting rights and lynching to state legislators, the governor, congressmen and even the president. In 1949, Moore became very involved in the national case, State of Florida v. Samuel Shepherd, Walter L. Irvin, Charles Greenlee, and Ernest E. Thomas, commonly known as the Groveland Rape case. Four young African American men were accused of raping a white woman, Norma Padgett. The sheriff of the area, Willis V. McCall rallied a mob of 1,000 local men to locate the accused. Ernest Thomas was killed during pursuit after being shot 400 times by the mob. Shepherd, Irvin, and Greenlee were beaten and coerced into confessing to the crime, only Irvin refused. The trio were immediately convicted by an all-white jury. Shephard and Irvin were sentenced to death while Greenlee, a minor, was sentenced to life in prison. In 1951, Harry and the NAACP legal team appealed the case before the United States Supreme Court. The Court ruled the men were not given a fair trial and sent the case back for retrial at the lower court. In November of 1951, while transporting Shepherd and Irvin back to the county prison for the retrial, Sheriff McCall shot the handcuffed men, killing Shepherd and seriously injuring Irvin. Moore launched an aggressive campaign to have McCall removed from his position and indicted for his involvement in the deaths. He wrote letters to President Truman, the governor, congressmen and several state and county legislators about McCall and the case. Many historians believe Moore's involvement in this case led to his murder only six weeks later. In 2019, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued the Groveland Four a posthumous pardon.
On December 25, 1951, both Christmas and the Moore's 25th wedding anniversary, a bomb exploded under their home, directly below the Moore's bedroom. Harry died on the way to the hospital. His funeral took place on January 2, 1952 to a crowd of 3,500, according to Ebony magazine. The following day, January 3, Harriette died from the injuries she sustained in the bombing. Her funeral took place on January 8, where NAACP leader Roy Wilkins spoke eloquently about the Moores and how their work will not be forgotten. The Moores are often called the first martyrs of the 1950s Civil Rights Movement.
The world quickly took note of Harry and Harriet's murders. Newspapers around the world criticized the U.S. for its treatment of African American citizens. The murders were discussed on the floor of the United Nations and the halls of Congress. There were many investigations at the time of the bombing, but the perpetrators were not found. The case was reopened in 1978, but again no charges were filed. In 2004-2006, the investigation was again reopened and led to the conclusion that the murders were conducted by the Central Florida Klu Klux Klan. The men believed responsible were Earl J. Brooklyn, Tillman H. Belvin, Joseph N. Cox, and Edward L. Spivey. However, all the men had died by this time, therefore no one was ever charged for the Moores' murder.
Evangeline was extremely involved in the investigation and worked directly with the attorney general. By the mid-1990s, Evangeline began to take a public role in preserving the memory of her family's contributions to the Civil Rights Movement. In 1995, she helped organize the Harry T. Moore and Harriette V. Moore Homesite Development Committee, a non-profit organization that raised money for an educational site dedicated to celebrating the life and work of the Moores. In 2004, Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park opened, featuring a museum, the original Moore homesite, and a 12-acre park. There are annual celebrations held in the second week of December in Mims, honoring the Moore family's sacrifices for human rights. In 2015, the Florida State Senate adopted resolution SR1638, "Remembering the outstanding contributions of pioneer leaders and martyrs Harriette Vyda Simms Moore and Harry T. Moore in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, etc." In October 2015, Evangeline passed away in New Carrolton, Maryland.
Harriette V. Simms was born in West Palm Beach, Florida to David I. Simms and Annie Warren Simms.
Harry Tyson Moore was born in Houston, Florida to Stephen John "Johnny" Moore and Rosa Tyson Moore.
Johnny Moore died. Rosa Moore sent Harry to Daytona Beach, Florida to stay with family because of financial difficulties. Harry and his maternal aunts moved to Jacksonville, Florida for better educational opportunities.
Moore returned to Houston, Florida and began the high school program at Florida Normal and Industrial Memorial Institute. He graduated with a teaching degree in 1924.
Harry earned his teaching certificate and immediately began teaching position at the segregated Monroe Elementary School in Cocoa, Florida.
Harry and Harriette wed on Christmas.
The Moore newlyweds moved in with Harriette's parents. Harry began teaching at the Titusville Colored Junior High School in Titusville, Florida.
Annie Rosa Moore was born. In the fall, Harriette began working as a teacher at Mims Colored Elementary School in Mims, Florida.
[Juanita] Evangeline Moore was born. Harry began taking correspondence courses at the University of Florida.
Harry and his family move into their own home in Mims, Florida.
Harry founded the Brevard County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Harry graduated from Bethune-Cookman College (BCC) with a normal degree in education. In the fall, Harry became a teacher and the principal of Mims Colored Elementary School.
In March, Attorney S.D. McGill filed a lawsuit for pay equality with Cocoa Junior School principal John Gilbert as the plaintiff. The case was dismissed in June.
The appeal case of Gilbert v. Board of Public Instruction of Brevard County was dismissed. The case was represented by NAACP Legal Counsel, Thurgood Marshall.
Harry organized and served as president of the Florida State Conference of the NAACP. Harriette graduated from Bethune-Cookman College with a teaching degree.
Harry founded the Progressive Voters League as a political partisan action group in opposition to the NAACP non-partisan stance.
As a result of his civil rights work and activism, Harry and Harriette lost their teaching positions at Mims Elementary School.
Evangeline enrolled in BCC. Harry became the NAACP's first fully paid executive secretary of the Brevard County chapter.
Harriette began teaching at the Lake Park Colored School in Palm Beach County, Florida.
Harriette graduated from BCC with a B.S. in science.
Harry graduated with a B.A. from BCC in August.
December 25: The Moore's home is firebombed. Harry passed away right before midnight.
January 1: Funeral of Harry T. Moore.
Jannuary 3: Harriette died from injuries sustained in bombing.
January 8: Funeral of Harriette V. Moore.
The NAACP awarded the Spingarn medal to Harry T. Moore; his mother Rosa accepted it on his behalf. Evangeline married Drapher Pagan, Sr. Drapher "Skip" Pagan, Jr. is born the following year.
The FBI officially closed the Moore homicide investigation case.
Annie R. Moore Hampton died suddenly and was buried in Ocala, Florida.
The Moore case was reopened but no charges were filed.
Creation of the Harry T. Moore Social Service Center in Titusville, Florida.
Florida's Governor Lawton Chiles ordered the reopening of the Moores' homicide case; no charges were filed.
The Brevard County Board of County Commissioners purchased the Moore homesite to be used as a memorial to the slain couple and created The Harry T. Moore Homesite Development Committee. The Florida State Legislature awarded $700,000 for development of the 10-acre Harry T. Moore Memorial Homesite in Mims, Florida.
Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Homesite Historical Marker is unveiled.
Brevard County Court Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Justice Center opened.
An archeological survey of Moore family home led to an investigation. The Florida State Attorney General Charlie Crist reopened the Moore homicide investigation. The Harry T. and Harriette V. Moore Cultural Complex is completed.
Attorney General Crist concluded that the perpetrators were four men from the Central Florida Klu Klux Klan. They had all died by this time, so no charges were filed.
The post office in Cocoa, Florida was renamed was named in honor of Harry T. and Harriette Moore by an Act of Congress: Public Law 112-243. Harry and Harriette were inducted in the Florida Civil Rights Hall of Fame.
Evangeline Moore died in New Carrolton, Maryland.
The Harry T. & Harriette V. Moore Memorial Park and Museum was added to U.S. Civil Rights Trail.
Brevard County School Board passed a resolution acknowledging the Moore's unjust firings.