Al Benn’s Alabama: Civil rights activist keeps busy schedule

Apr. 9, 2013

If variety really is the spice of life, Dot Moore should know since she’s been a teacher, political leader, civil rights activist, popular author and mentor to many. What she’s most proud of, however, is raising four young children after the sudden death of her husband. Dot (that’s what everybody calls her) might write her autobiography one day, but that will have to wait because after writing two well-received Georgia-based books, she’s working on two more. Her current literary projects include a biography of William Burr Howell, the father of Varina Davis, who was the wife of Confederacy President Jefferson Davis.

She’s also working on a story about her ancestors and their move from Virginia to Alabama in the 1840s.

Think that’s enough? Not really. Now into her 80s, she’s busy building an organization focusing on hearing loss problems — something she’s dealt with much of her life.
“I may not be the most talented person you’ll meet, but I think I’ve had more variety in my life than most,” she said recently at her Depression-era brick house in the Cloverdale community.

Those who know Dot marvel at the octogenarian whirlwind’s busy schedule because they’re accustomed to seeing her making the rounds in Montgomery as she works on her projects.
“Dot is an amazing person,” said Ed Bridges, retired director of the state Department of Archives and History. “She pursues her projects with 100 percent commitment. Everybody is aware of her energy and her passion.”

An outspoken liberal in a state that has become increasingly conservative, she likes to talk about her political experiences. It’s one way for her to stay young at heart.During her political “heyday” she was a member of the Alabama Democratic Party’s Executive Committee and also was a leader of Montgomery County’s wing of the party. At one point she was president of the League of Women Voters in Alabama and also played a key role in reopening Montgomery’s public parks that had been closed during the last vestiges of segregation.
“The parks had been closed for eight years, and we worked hard for a long time to convince the city to reopen them,” she said. “That’s something I’m particularly proud of.”

Her political and altruistic efforts paved the way for friendships with Montgomery’s movers and shakers along with historic figures such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks and the Durrs — Clifford and Virginia. Some of Montgomery’s leaders today are indebted to Dot for her help in preparing them for future positions of responsibility.

During her brief stint as a teacher at Sidney Lanier High School, she helped a student who preferred to sit in the back of her classroom. He took her advice on public speaking, and it paid off handsomely.The shy high school senior was Morris Dees, who today is nationally known as co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.
“One of the things I suggested to him was stopping in a speech for dramatic pauses before saying something important,” she said. “I’m very proud of how successful he’s become.”
Dees returns the compliment, especially about Dot’s leadership in the Democratic Party during the administrations of Gov. George Wallace.
“If Dot Moore hadn’t been involved in the Alabama Democratic Party during that time, someone else would have had to be invented to keep (Wallace) from taking total control over the party,” Dees said.

Born in LaGrange, Ga., in 1931, Dot has few, if any, memories of her mother, who died when she was 5 years old. Her family eventually moved to Alabama, where she earned a degree in speech and drama at what later became known as the University of Montevallo.

She met and fell in love with architect Joseph Moore Jr. Four children followed, and it appeared to be the perfect marriage. Then tragedy struck. Her husband died unexpectedly at the age of 45. Dot said she placed her husband’s life insurance money in a trust for her children to help pay for their college educations. Meanwhile, she kept teaching.
“All of my children have college degrees and wonderful families,” she said. “I’m thankful for how they turned out. As for me, I’m more focused than ever on my on my writing.”
Most days she sits in front of her computer screen, working on her two latest literary efforts when she’s not involved in producing “The Hearing Aid,” a newsletter for the Montgomery Area Hearing Loss Support Group she founded.
“I believe I was born with hearing problems,” said Dot, who had a cochlear device implanted in her left ear a few years ago. “That has made all the difference in the world for me.”
It’s also been a way for her to keep chugging along in her 80s, always looking for something new to tackle, somebody else to help if they need it.