Skip to comments.Judge Roy Moore had eventful life before current flap
Posted on 11/11/2003 6:59:51 AM PST by Hillary's Folly
|SEARCH||FIND A BUSINESS|
» More From Today's Birmingham News
» Special Report: HealthSouth accused of accounting fraud
Judge had eventful life before current flap
11/09/03JOHN ARCHIBALD AND GREG GARRISON
Suspended Chief Justice Roy Moore lived an eventful life before he began his Ten Commandments crusade - surviving a conspiracy to kill him in Vietnam and accidentally stabbing himself in court as a young prosecutor.
But Moore's journey to national media celebrity would have been hard to predict from his beginnings.
He was born Feb. 11, 1947, in Gadsden and grew up the son of a jackhammer operator who moved often. Their many homes in Etowah County, Texas and Pennsylvania were often without indoor plumbing.
State Sen. Larry Means, D-Attalla, was a high school classmate of Moore, who graduated from Etowah High in 1965. "He was a hard-working guy," Means recalls. "He made straight A's. He was always walking around with a bunch of books."
Moore bagged groceries for 85 cents an hour at Piggly Wiggly to help support his family.
"Daddy one time hocked a toolbox, with all his tools, for $100," Moore said. "He was supposed to pick it up in two weeks. Couldn't get it. Just let it go."
Moore went to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and sent home portions of his living allowance. He was on active duty from 1969 to 1974, serving a tour in Vietnam as commander of a military police company. The soldiers called him "Captain America" and openly talked of killing him.
"He was a quirk," said Barrey Hall, who served in the 188th M.P. Company. "He was a bully, and he was not a nice person."
Moore said he enforced the rules, running a stockade in Da Nang for soldiers caught sleeping on guard duty, smoking marijuana and even killing their superior officers. "They blew them up with Claymore mines, things like that," Moore said.
Moore said some soldiers once conspired to kill him. "It was a guy that would get high on drugs," Moore said. "They were going to send him down to shoot me."
The man shot Moore's first sergeant in the leg instead, through the doorway to the officers' bunk. The first sergeant was sent home. The shooter was court-martialed, Moore said.
Moore was careful after that. "I prayed," he said. "I took precautions."
After Vietnam, Moore graduated from the University of Alabama Law School and worked as a deputy district attorney for Etowah County from 1977 to 1982. He crusaded against corruption, including prosecuting the mayor of Glencoe for fraud, but had his embarrassing moments too.
While prosecuting a murder case, Moore demonstrated how the stabbing took place. Standing before the jury, he jabbed the knife toward himself, accidentally cutting himself and his coat. The incident made Paul Harvey's national radio show with Moore being the butt of the joke as "the prosecutor who stabbed himself in court." After the jury failed to reach a verdict, Moore had to re-try the case, and this time cut himself picking up the knife. The lawyers laughed, and the jury stared in disbelief.
But Moore said what matters is he won a conviction. One of the judges later jokingly put up a sign saying Moore was no longer allowed to handle weapons in the courthouse. "That was a long time ago," Moore said.
While he was a deputy district attorney, Moore made a wood-burned Ten Commandments plaque and hung it in his office. It also hung in his office while he was a private attorney.
Moore ran as a Democrat for circuit judge in 1982 and lost. He then spent over a year working on a ranch in Australia and trained as a kickboxer in Texas. Back in Gadsden, at a party where another lawyer asked him to recite his poetry, Moore met his wife.
In 1985, Moore, then 38, married Kayla Kisor, 24, who was divorced with a daughter. Moore adopted Heather, now 20. He also has three sons, Ory, 16, Caleb, 13, and Micah, 10.
Moore ran for district attorney in 1986 and lost. Then as now, Moore had a penchant for quoting other people in speeches. Moore routinely peppers his public addresses with long memorized quotes from George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
"Roy does have a gift for memorization," said Etowah County District Attorney Jim Hedgspeth, who defeated Moore in 1986. "The vault in his brain that contains original thoughts is empty. But the one that contains other people's thoughts is full."
Moore became a Republican and was appointed by Gov. Guy Hunt as a circuit judge in 1992. That's when he moved his hand-made plaque to the wall of his courtroom and began drawing notice by opening court with prayer.
Lawyer Joel Sogol, chairman of Alabama litigation for the American Civil Liberties Union in 1994, received complaints and contacted Moore to say he planned to send a court reporter to document the courtroom prayers.
"He called a press conference saying he was being religiously persecuted," Sogol said. "He said he would not stop prayer in his courtroom, and he would not take down the Ten Commandments plaque. That was the first time we heard about the plaque."
Sogol represented three Etowah County plaintiffs who sued Moore. Montgomery Circuit Judge Charles Price ruled in 1996 that the prayers must stop and the plaque must come down.
Gov. Fob James threatened to call in the National Guard to prevent that. Eventually, the lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality and Moore kept his plaque. The publicity helped propel him to easy election as chief justice in 2000 after he campaigned on a platform of defending public display of the Ten Commandments and the moral foundations of law.
But Moore said he probably would still be a judge in Etowah County if the ACLU had never challenged him.
"I don't think I ever had any thoughts of running for anything higher than county office," Moore said. "If I had not been sued, or threatened to be sued by the ACLU, about doing what I think was right, I would never have learned what I learned, and then I never would have run for higher office."
» News Obituaries
» Paid Death Notices
About Us | Help/Feedback | Advertise With Us
©2003 al.com. All Rights Reserved.
And repeats these quotes ad infinitum, with his voice getting higher and more sing-songy as he gets into his talking points.
The most interesting part of the story, IMO, is that Judge Moore's elevation to chief justice and the current controversy over the Ten Commandments were the direct result of the ACLU attacking him and trying to control the way he ran his county courtroom rather than his own political ambition -- as the Moore bashers like to claim.
Having watched this case locally since the beginning, you are exactly right about how this started. But, once Roy seized the moment and saw the amount of political support he could muster, his case has, in my mind, deteriorated into some false prophet freak show.
I have no problem with the Ten Commandments being posted anywhere. I think the ACLU on this issue is ridiculous. But I also believe that the Constitution set forth Due Process and all have an obligation to follow it even when it may go against us personally.
AND most of all, I have a real problem with the way Judge Moore has manipulated the facts in this case by constantly declaring that by simply removing the Commandment monument (which, frankly, looks more like some sort of idol to me) he is being told he "cannot acknowledge God" is horse hockey, and he knows it. My God is bigger than any government restriction on man-made, material displays of religion, and no one in this government is denying anyone their right to acknowledge God. And Judge Moore's insistence on using this type of false hyperbole leaves me with the impression that he simply is not following the Ten Commandments for which he claims to have such reverence.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.