My Father’s Uncle
I am very grateful to share these reflections by my own father, about his uncle. My father shared these words at my great-uncle’s funeral. I myself only visited with Uncle D a few times, but I was also very much struck by his attentiveness. He listened to every word.
Memories of Uncle D (J. D. Moore)
October 12, 2009
I am a grand nephew of J. D. Moore and the grandson of Shirley Moore Elliston, one of J. D. Moore’s sisters. I happen also to be a United Methodist minister, the pastor now of Tarrytown UMC in Austin, Texas. For nine years, from 1990 until 1999, I was the senior pastor of First UMC in Victoria. It was during these years that I got to know J.D. personally.
As a child growing up in Palo Pinto County, Uncle D (our family’s life-long name for him) was for me a larger than life figure, and not just because of his tall stature. (He would have been such a figure even if he had been 5 feet tall!) I knew him as the uncle who was a famous athlete in football, track and basketball—-and who ran marathons into his 60s. It was only later that I learned that he had done other things.
Uncle D’s and Aunt Edith’s visits (along with Bill, John and Cora Jo) were special occasions. They were all so full of life. I remember one visit especially. We were living on a farm four miles north of Graford. I was junior high age. They had no sooner gotten out of the car than John and Bill decided they wanted to run down to the Keechi Creek some two miles away, just for the exercise! I tried to keep up with them but finally met them on their way back to the house. My dad, Bob Hall, always enjoyed visiting with Uncle D. It seemed they could visit for hours and my dad would talk more than usual because D was such an attentive listener.
Uncle D had a commanding presence. I think it was his eyes that riveted me in place. When he looked at me, I knew I had been looked at. He would give me his full attention as I tried to answer his questions. He always gave me the impression that he knew me well and expected great things from me.
When Carol and I lived in Victoria, I would often drive to visit with my mother. A few of these trips were to Houston or Huntsville, and Uncle D would go with me to see my mother, his niece, Ethel. (He also wanted to size up the retirement home she was living in as a possible place for himself someday.) When my mother moved back to her hometown of Mineral Wells, I would go there monthly to check on her. Uncle D traveled with me almost every time to visit John and Rhoda and other relatives. It was during these six hour journeys that we became friends. We would call it our therapy sessions.
I learned so much from him about my family on my mother’s side. He would talk about his mother and dad, his siblings and his early years on the farm. I learned that he earned money each summer selling soft drinks and produce by the side of Highway 180 West in Mineral Wells. There were stories also about his years at North Texas State University, his athletic adventures and injuries, his work as a short order cook, his meeting Edith and working for her parents at a boarding house. He would reminisce about his earliest teaching jobs in Salesville, Dublin, and El Campo. In El Campo, he looked so young that he bought some non-prescription glasses so the students would take him more seriously.
In town after town as we traveled between Victoria and Mineral Wells he would recount events that happened: refereeing a game in an open field in Hico, and visiting on a ranch between Hamilton and Lampasas when he was serving on state boards of education. One memorable story: As a young man, he was refereeing a high school game in the old convention center in which the fans were so unruly that he stopped the game and threatened to clear the gym if they did not settle down. They did.
When his beloved Edith passed away, he would talk with me about how he went up to the farm house on the pecan orchard south of Mineral Wells for a while “to get acquainted with himself again.”
These trips were a great gift to me. Without them, I would not have had the extended time to listen and learn from him. And he was always a good listener for me as I shared some of the joys and trials of being a Methodist pastor.
What I came to appreciate about my uncle were these traits:
He was principled. His principles were shaped by his disciplined Baptist upbringing. A passage of scripture that comes to mind for me is Psalm 1: He was “like a tree planted by the waters which yield their fruit in their season, and their leaves do not wither. In all they do, they prosper.” He was committed to the Lord and he strove to live an upright life—–and expected others to do the same.
He was persuasive. He was not a man you wanted to say “no” to! He got things done, not the least of which was establishing Victoria College and guiding it through its development. He knew how to “network” with decision-makers before they had a name for it.
Uncle D was direct. He was not known for subtlety. You always knew where you stood with him and you did not have to wonder about his opinion.
My dad, who knew the Moore clan of Palo Pinto County well, used to tell me that nobody ever won an argument with a Moore. My Hall forbears were the quiet, retiring type, and the contrast between Hall reunions and Moore reunions was remarkable for me as a youngster. The exception to this heritage was Grandpa Fawks, my paternal grandmother’s father, a staunch old-time Methodist, son of a Methodist circuit-riding preacher. It seems that he and Grandpa Moore —Uncle D’s father— got into a heated argument just before my parent’s wedding on the subject of infant baptism! Someone had to break up their argument so that the wedding could commence. I never heard who won the argument. It was probably a draw. I have felt the assertive Fawks and Moore blood contending with the retiring Hall blood a number of times in my life.
His ministry was educating. This was his Christian calling. I think he was so dedicated to education because of what education had done for him. He passionately wanted to provide quality educational opportunities for others.
Uncle D was an attentive husband and father. On our trips he would speak to me of his children’s and grandchildren’s accomplishments and the pride he took in their distinguished careers.
During my years in Victoria I was always proud to tell people that I was a nephew of J.D. and Edith Moore. I learned how much they were loved in the community, each in their own fields of endeavor. And I would usually hear some wonderful stories about Uncle D from former VC students and faculty members—-and a few stories about how they butted heads with him over some issue, always told with a smile.
Victoria and this region would not be the same without the leadership of J.D. Moore. He was blessed and he was a blessing.
The other biblical text that came to mind for me when reflecting on his life was the parable Jesus told, found at Matthew 25: 14-30. It is the story of the talents and what people did with them. Well, my Uncle D did not bury his talents in the ground. He was not mouse-minded. He invested his talents, he exercised them for the glory of God and for the love of neighbor. To change the metaphor, he sowed seeds that resulted in trees which have and will bear much fruit for generations to come.
An ancient church patriarch, Irenaeus, said it this way: “The glory of God is a man [or woman] fully alive.” Uncle D lived his life fully and we are the better for it. The challenge for us is to claim this legacy and use our differing talents for God’s glory in the time we have left to us.
These are reflections of Robert Edward Hall, Grand-Nephew of J.D. Moore and Grandson of Shirley Mae Moore Elliston Moor and Eddie Earl Elliston; and son of Ethel Mae Elliston Hall and Robert McConnell Hall. Shirley was a sister of J.D. Moore. I have added more detail to the reflections I shared at Uncle D’s funeral service on October 3, 2009, at First Baptist Church in Victoria, Texas.