This Day in History

April 23, 1963: White Civil Rights Activist Murdered on Racial Justice Walk in Alabama

Time Periods: 20th Century, People’s Movement: 1961 - 1974
Themes: Civil Rights Movements, Racism & Racial Identity

Moore was also an activist in his home state. Shown here, he marched to protest segregation at the General Assembly in Annapolis, Maryland. Source: The Baltimore Sun.

William Lewis Moore, a white postal worker from Baltimore, was shot and killed in Alabama, on April 23, 1963, during a one-person march for racial justice.

Moore started his march in Chattanooga, Tennessee, and intended to walk  to Jackson, Mississippi — approximately 400 miles. His purpose for walking to the Miss. capital was to protest racism. He planned to hand-deliver a letter to Gov. Ross Barnett when he reached his destination. Moore’s letter urged the governor to end segregation in the Jim Crow state:

Do not go down in infamy as one who fought the democracy for all which you have not the power to prevent. Be gracious. Give more than is immediately demanded of you.

Moore never delivered this message to the governor. Near the town of Attalla, Ala., roughly 300 miles from his destination, he was shot and his body was left by the side of the road. The man suspected of shooting him — twice in the head at close range — was Floyd Simpson, a Ku Klux Klan member.

Moore's letter to the Mississippi Governor 1963

Moore intended to deliver a letter to Mississippi Gov. Barnett. Source: NPR.

In 2008, admirers of Moore’s activism completed the march in his memory. When they reached their destination and attempted to deliver his letter to then-governor Haley Barbour, the marchers were turned away.

Read more about Moore’s story and the 2008 memorial march at NPR.

Listen to a song about William Moore by Baltimore musician and retired teacher, Joe DeFilippo, titled “400 Miles.”

In a related story about postal workers in the Civil Rights Movement, mailperson Doug Hughes flew a tiny personal aircraft, on to the lawn of the U.S. Capitol in an act of civil disobedience on April 15, 2015. Hughes was carrying letters to every member of Congress urging them to address corruption and to pass campaign finance reform. See Democracy Now! for more about Doug Hughes.