Led Shenandoah development

Newsman Ray Moore dies at 90

by W. Winston Skinner

In the 1960s, Ray Moore was known to Cowetans and most of north Georgia as a face and voice on the evening news.

In the following decade, he became a resident of the county, a leader in civic affairs and one of those involved in the development of Shenandoah. Many knew him as the father of one of their children’s friends. Moore died Tuesday at Hospice Atlanta Center of complications following a fall in his home.

He would have turned 91 on July 29.

In 1963, when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, NBC News wanted a reaction from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In an excerpt from an autobiography written for his family, Ray Moore, who was then WSB-TV news director and anchor, explained how he scooped the nation:

“No one could find Dr. King. Calls to his office and calls to his home went unanswered on that November day. So I decided to take some action. I enlisted a cameraman and we got in a news car and headed for the office of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference on Auburn Avenue, not far from Dr. King’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. Darkness comes early in November, and it was dark when we parked on the curb next to the SCLC front door. I got out and knocked on the door.”

A member of King’s inner circle recognized and trusted Moore and let him in. King gave a dramatic interview — in which he foreshadowed his own assassination five years later — which aired that night on NBC, CBS and ABC. Asked about death threats and attempts on his own life, King told Moore — and the world: “You almost become immune to being afraid as a result of these threats. This is where I have decided to stand: I believe firmly that this cause is right — and that someone must have the courage and fortitude to stand up for it — even if it means suffering and even if it means death.”

In 1968, during the international manhunt for King’s own assassin, a source Moore had cultivated provided the tip that found the assassin’s abandoned white Mustang in Atlanta.

Moore covered events and people for WSB-TV and NBC News in the 1950s and ‘60s, interviewing celebrities and leaders like TV host Dave Garroway and a host of other Hollywood stars, legendary golfer Bobby Jones, poet Robert Frost and U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He also covered political conventions, trials and riots. Moore did groundbreaking investigative reporting — once tracking a fugitive from Georgia to Missouri without leaving his desk, using just his phone. In 1958, Reuven Frank, the head of NBC News, was so impressed by Moore’s WSB affiliate stories that also aired on NBC’s Nightly News that he offered Moore the top job in the network’s Chicago bureau when John Chancellor was promoted.

Moore decided to stay in Atlanta to bring up his family. He turned down two other offers from NBC News in the next 10 years, and staying in Atlanta put him in the crosshairs of history.

He and his WSB news teams chronicled the Civil Rights movement, the integration of the University of Georgia, the King assassination and Jimmy Carter’s rise to national fame. Among those who worked with Moore was Tom Brokaw, who specifically credited Moore’s guidance in his autobiography.

Ray Moore was born in Elizabeth City, N.C., in 1922 to newspaperman Raymond Moore Sr. and his wife, Helen. The senior Moore later moved the family back to his home, Orville, Ohio, when he bought an interest in the Orville Courier-Crescent newspaper. It was there that 13-year-old Ray Moore launched his career in journalism, starting as a delivery boy, a “devil boy” — filling the wells of the big press with ink and later becoming an editor.

Moore served as a tech-sergeant in Patton’s Third Army during World War II and wrote the history for the 10th Armored Division, published in 1945. In recent years, he also produced a video shown at the division’s final reunion at Fort Knox and in Washington, D.C., after the opening of the World War II Memorial.

Attending Columbia University on the GI Bill, Moore earned a history degree and was hired as a radio announcer at WETB in Johnson City, Tenn. in 1948. He moved to Atlanta to work at WSB Radio as an announcer in 1951. Moving over to WSB-TV in 1952 as a news reporter and weatherman, Moore soon became known for his quick wit. Once, promoting tires on a “live” TV commercial, Moore was supposed to insert a pin into a specially protected balloon to simulate the resistance of Gordy tubeless tires to puncture. When predictably the balloon exploded in his hands, Moore recovered by intoning, “Ladies and gentlemen, the moral of this story is — don’t put penny rubber balloons on your car. Get a Gordy tubeless tire!”

By 1958, Moore was both news director and news anchor for WSB. He left in 1968 but returned as noon co-anchor in 1983 — remaining until retirement in 1992. Moore was inducted into the Georgia Broadcast Hall of Fame in Athens in 1995.

During his 50-plus-year career, Moore also won a National Emmy as part of the NBC News team and the Silver Circle Award from the Atlanta Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He was listed as one of the 14 most influential individuals in Atlanta after a study by the National Urban League, and was named by Atlanta Magazine as one of several contemporary Atlantans who have had a significant and positive impact upon the community.

Starting in the 1970s, Moore also worked at WAGA-TV in Atlanta. He later left TV to work with developers Scott Hudgens and Herman Russell in creating the planned community in Coweta County called Shenandoah. Several housing developments and the Shenandoah Industrial Park are reminder of that project.

In 1979, Moore became director of research communications at the Georgia Institute of Technology. While at Tech he helped write, produce and narrate the video used by Billy Payne’s Atlanta Organizing Committee to win the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games for Atlanta. After his 1992 retirement, Moore continued to appear on TV specials and election coverage on WSB until recent years. On June 12, 2009, Moore joined longtime colleague and friend Don McClellan as they flipped the switch that ended WSB’s 61 years of analog transmission and began the current era of digital transmission.

Until his recent accident, Moore continued to read papers and watch and listen to news and commentary every day. He was a lay preacher in the Methodist church for many years and also taught Sunday school at several churches.

He was preceded in death by his parents, a sister Barbara, and a grandson Aaron. He is survived by his wife, Sara; three sons and their wives: Russ (Mary Caroline) of Newnan, Steve (Carolyn) of Augusta and Bruce (Kim) of Memphis, Tennessee; step-children Lee Sears of Raleigh, North Carolina and Nat Sears of Alpharetta; and 10 grandchildren: Joseph, Emily, Claire Marie, Ann, Andy, Cari, Nina, Caley, Conner, and Leah; and his sister, Helen Gerig, and her husband, Carl, of Ft. Myers, Florida.

A memorial service will be held at Oak Grove United Methodist Church, 1722 Oak Grove Rd., Decatur, GA 30033 on Saturday at 3 p.m., with a reception to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Oak Grove UMC or to The Salvation Army Metro Atlanta Area Command, 1190 W. Druid Hills Drive, Suite 150, Atlanta, GA 30329.

Moore’s papers have already been given to the University of Georgia.

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