Tuesday, April 23, 2013

50th Anniversary of the Death of an American Hero

A little reminder popped up on my Yahoo Calendar this morning that today marks the 50th anniversary of the death of a mostly unsung American hero: William Lewis Moore.

Moore was killed on April 23, 1963, while walking down a highway in rural Alabama. He was en route to Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett's office in Jackson, MS to deliver a letter urging the segregationist Barnett to accept racial integration.

Moore's body was discovered along that Alabama highway, shot by two .22 caliber bullets, about an hour after he had been interviewed by a reporter from a local radio station. As far as I know, no arrest has ever been made in the case and Moore's killer(s) have never been brought to justice.

Just one among many victims of Southern racial prejudice. But Moore is noteworthy for another reason: Moore had suffered a nervous breakdown a few years earlier and had subsequently been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Moore began his activism by campaigning for the rights of the mentally ill and subsequently segued into civil rights for African Americans and all minorities.

I posted this to make sure Moore's memory lives on and to remind everyone that mental illness is just like any other illness. Some of its victims can behave villainously. Some, like Moore, can behave heroically.

RIP William Lewis Moore. This country and this world are a better place because you walked our highways, if only for a short while.


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