Samford University The BelltowerJanuary 2005

J. Rogers Moore

J. Rogers Moore Remembers the '20s

"...The Howard students held a mock funeral for Birmingham-Southern's stuffed panther mascot and dared their cross-town rivals to attempt a rescue. Moore was tackled by a Birmingham-Southern football player during the ensuing melee. 'We had some scuffles,' he said, 'but they didn't get the panther'... "

Samford alumnus J. Rogers Moore ’27 was born Jan. 18, 1905. Last fall, as he prepared to celebrate his 100th birthday, he related his memories of Howard College in the 1920s.

Moore was a talented athlete at Auburn University for two years before transferring to Howard College in order to prepare for a career in ministry. At Howard he was a baseball player, runner, tennis player and coach, and was an active member of the student literary club and religious organizations. “There were about 600 students at that time and everybody knew everybody," he recalled.

Moore spent much of his social time with fraternity friends. “We would play rook, bridge, and tell tales," he said. Moore also worked in the college library, and recalls librarian Marie Bost teasing him by suggesting that he was throwing away books instead of reshelving them.

Moore lived in the campus dormitory, which he said was "excellent, but crowded.” His roommate was among those who stole Birmingham-Southern College’s stuffed panther mascot in 1926. The Howard students held a mock funeral for the panther, among other public humiliations, and dared their cross-town rivals to attempt a rescue. Moore was tackled by a Birmingham-Southern football player during the ensuing melee. “We had some scuffles,” he said, “but they didn't get the panther." The Howard students later returned their prize to its owners, along with a peace offering of a black kitten in a panther-sized crate allegedly imported from Africa.

Moore met fellow Howard student Sara Hunt when she sat behind him at church. "I thought she was the cutest girl I ever saw," he said. When he asked if he might go home with her she balked. "I'm not a pick up!," she said. But, after two years of courting on the streetcar to and from movies, Moore finally won her over. The two were married and had one son, Richard Moore ‘58, who followed his parents to Howard College.

Religion professor L. O. Dawson was among Moore’s favorite teachers. "Dawson was a wonderful man,” he said. “He knew how to get the subject matter across and he had empathy for students." Moore gave up smoking when another favorite professor advised Moore that he was starting to smell like his pipe.

One Sunday afternoon shortly before Moore was scheduled to graduate and enter a seminary, college Dean Percy P. Burns called him into his office. "Dean Burns was a man everyone looked up to,” Moore recalled. “We practically worshipped him. He knew students and how to help students through all their difficulties." Also at the meeting was a Midland public schools trustee looking for a Christian coach for one of his schools.

Moore accepted the coaching position, apparently to his mother's disappointment. He remembers that his aunt comforted his mother by saying, "May, don't regret him not going to seminary. I expect he'll do more good in teaching school than preaching." In fact, Moore did enjoy a long and successful career in education, as teacher, coach, and principal, ultimately training as a counselor and working in the district superintendent's office in Florence, Alabama.

Moore relocated to Riverside, California, to be close to his son and has been a faithful contributor to Samford for 21 years. He said he didn’t plan to do much celebrating on his centennial birthday this month. "I'll probably lie down and take a nap," he laughed.

Special thanks to Samford development officer Michelle Darrah

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