The Legend of MooreFebruary 7, 2017
Not many Ignatius alumni have the opportunity to see the pope up close, and even fewer are in a position to speak with the man charged with the task of leading the world’s Catholics. In 1967 George Anthony Moore ’34, in his role as the Associate Director of the Cleveland Chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ), had a personal meeting with Bl. Pope Paul VI.
The NCCJ was founded by non-Catholics in response to the religious bigotry aimed at 1928 Democratic presidential candidate Al Smith. The working-class Catholics who aligned themselves with the Democratic Party for the first time because of Smith were only one side of the political coin – Herbert Hoover carried the election in a landslide due to the defection of many Democrats, especially in the South, who could not stomach the idea of a Catholic president.
The irony of his meeting with the pope would not have been lost on Mr. Moore. The path that brought him to his audience with Paul VI began with the intervention of Archbishop Joseph Schrembs in order to gain admission to Saint Ignatius – admission that was initially denied on the grounds that no Jesuit school in the country admitted African American students. George Anthony Moore’s mother was undeterred when the door to Saint Ignatius was closed to her son and thus she appealed to the bishop to force that door open.
That Mr. Moore would join and help lead an organization founded to defend Catholics against bigotry, even after being the victim of unwarranted prejudice at the hands of his co-religionists, is an indicator of the immense probity of this honorable man.
Between the intervention of Archbishop Schrembs and the audience with Pope Paul VI, Moore was either making history or associating with those who did. In retrospect it seems no coincidence that Moore’s roommate at Ohio State was Jesse Owens, the man who proved to Hitler and his Nazi regime that the only thing about ‘race’ that mattered was how fast you could run it.
In 1942, after earning a Master’s Degree in Theater from the University of Iowa and working for the Black-run Cleveland Herald, Moore was hired by the Cleveland Press, thus becoming the first African American journalist at any big-city ‘white’ newspaper outside of New York City. Five years later he was hired by WEWS (Channel 5), where he produced the acclaimed “One O’Clock Club” as well as “Ebony Showcase” – believed to be the first Black-focused variety show in America.
Mr. Moore went on to found the public relations firm George A. Moore & Co., and lectured on journalism and theater at such schools as John Carroll University, Case Western Reserve University, and Harvard University. Prior to his death in 1997 he served as the first president of the Catholic Interracial Council of Cleveland, and in 1960 he received the James J. Hoey Award for Interracial Justice from the Catholic Interracial Council of New York.
George Anthony Moore’s life was one of exceptional work in his chosen field as well as in service to his community and his Church. He exemplified the essential characteristics that Saint Ignatius High School hopes to instill in each of her graduates, and he serves as an example to all who have ever walked these hallowed halls – not just because of his many successes, but because of his determination to ‘fight the good fight’ in the name of justice.
He is a man of whom all at Saint Ignatius should be proud – a person who embodied our ideal of being a man for others in service to the Church and the world. He should also be a constant reminder to those of us who profess to be Catholic of what is at stake if we forget that the word ‘catholic’ means ‘ universal,’ broad-minded,’ and ‘diverse.’