Nelson Mandela and My Dad

Nelson Mandela and My Dad
An inspiration all over the world....

"The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall" -- 

Nelson Mandela

The death of Nelson Mandela at the age of 95 brought a physical end of life to yet another one of my heroes. President Mandela's belief that he and his followers, the Black African Congress, could end Apartheid in South Africa appeared ludicrous 50 years ago.

And yet, he believed.

The two decades he spent in jail did not deter him. He believed on, kept writing, kept organizing, kept fighting, even as his rioters of all races were bloodied in battle and scourged all the same. He believed in the rightness of his cause, and that sustained him and his followers.

He lived to see a free Africa, and served as President from 1994-1999.

Mandela was the second hero I've lost this year. My Dad, George Moore, was the first. Dad also stood up for what was right, and fair. Treating all people decently and gaining equal rights was what he taught us. Sometimes begrudgingly. But he taught us. Oddly enough, Mandela's death brought my Dad, and one of the stories he told us, to mind.

My Dad grew up in the deep South....Granville, Texas and Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Racism, as former Food Network star Paula Deen indicated,  was as normal as skin on your body.

But my Dad's family was a different sort of Southerner. My grandfather, Louis Joseph Moore, was a lawyer who strongly believed that everyone deserved representation. Therefore, he represented women who were divorcing their husbands (in the days before the even had a right to vote), farmers whose land was threatened, and, horrors of horrors to his neighbors...African-Americans who were wrongly accused of crimes.

The Moore family didn't make a big deal of their differences with their neighbors. But word got around. These were small towns. With big mouths. "Did you hear the one about Lawyer Moore? He represents...darkies!" my Dad told me.

And eventually, the KKK came to visit. First at home, where they burned a cross on my grandfather's front lawn. My Dad still remembered the sound of a brick shattering their front window. He was five years old at the time, so that would have been around 1926 or 27.

My grandfather was serving as the lawyer in Granville, Texas, for two African-American men accused of stealing. Earlier in the day, on a tip from a colleague, he told his clients to hide.

The KKK came to visit my grandfather's office at night, lynching rope in hand, demanding to know the whereabouts of his clients.

"I have no idea where they are," he said.

"Then it's your turn," the Grand Leader said to my grandfather.

The KKK then turned and walked. But my grandfather had heard, seen and felt enough to want to protect his young children. He gathered my grandmother, my Dad and my aunt and uncle, contacted his sister in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and vacated Granville overnight.

He remained in Arkansas for the rest of his life. Today, there is a plaque in his honor in the courthouse in Little Rock.

He died in 1948, at the age of 64, and I never had a chance to know him. But the stories of Louis Joseph Moore were passed along to me by my Dad.

Standing up for what is right is never easy. It just takes courage and conviction on the part of one to believe and make it happen. Nelson Mandela knew that. So did my Dad. And my grandfather.

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