Until Justice Rolls Down: Bill Moore & the 1963 Freedom Walkers [Freedom Fighters]

In 1963, during the tumultuous civil rights movement, Bill Moore, an idealistic postal worker, author and U.S. Marine veteran, who grew up visiting the South and believed that one person could change the world, set out on a one man freedom walk from Chattanooga, Tennessee to deliver his own letter, calling for racial harmony, to the governor of Mississippi.

After only three days, he was shot dead on an isolated country road in Alabama. Bill Moore is the first white civil rights activist killed during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.

The FBI were dispatched to investigate the murder. President Kennedy denounced the killing. Within one week, a diverse group of five white and five black Freedom Walkers volunteered to finish Moore’s walk. They were joined by seven observers. The media and angry locals also tagged along.

The men were frequently assaulted as the police chose not to intervene and the local and federal government refused to provide protection for the walkers. Alabama Governor George Wallace threatened to arrest the men if they entered his state. When the walkers crossed into Alabama, they were arrested and sent to Kilby State prison. Their arrest made the cover of The New York Times.

With the men in jail, and the environment deemed too dangerous to continue, the freedom walk to deliver Moore’s letter was abruptly suspended. Five months later, a grand jury failed to indict Moore’s suspected killer. Though the case remained opened, for all pragmatic purposes, the investigation ended in 1963.

In 2008, the FBI launched the Civil Rights Cold Case Division, and re-examined Moore's murder. However, according to family members, the case was quietly closed a few years later... without resolution.

LEARN MORE...

  • "Freedom Walk: Mississippi or Bust" by Mary Stanton, available from Amazon

Audio Interview with 1963 Freedom Walker, Bob Zellner

Bob Zellner is interviewed by Ellen Johnson in 2017. Zellner's memoir  "The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement" was adapted into the 2020 film "Son of the South" and is available from Amazon

Listen the to Song, "William Moore" by Phil Ochs

Folk singer Phil Ochs recorded and released the song "William Moore" after the murder of Bill Moore in 1963.

LYRICS

Walkin' down an Alabama road
Rememberin' what the Bible told

Walkin' with a letter in his hand

Dreaming of another southern land
Walkin' down an Alabama road

And he went by the name of William Moore
Now what are you doing William Moore
Why the letter in your hand?

There's only one southern land

And he went by the name of William Moore

What price the glory of one man?
What price the glory of one man?

What price the hopes,

What price the dreams,

And what price the glory of one man?

Remembering what his grandfather done
Fought for the south in '61

A hundred years have passed by since then

Now Moore is fighting for the south again
Remembering what his grandfather done

Remembering the time in world war two
And the south pacific island that he knew

Remembering the young men that he killed

And the praying that the guns of hate be stilled

Remembering the time in world war two

What price the glory of one man?
What price the glory of one man?

What price the hopes,
What price the dreams,

And what price the glory of one man?

And they shot him on the Alabama road
Forgot about what the Bible told

They shot him with that letter in his hand

As though he were a dog and not a man

And they shot him on the Alabama road

Did you say it was a shame when he died?
Did you say he was fool because he tried?

Did you wonder who had fired the gun?

Did you know that it was you who fired the gun?

Did you say it was a shame when he died?

What price the glory of one man?
What price the glory of one man?

What price the hopes,

What price the dreams,

And what price the glory of one man?

In Development Documentary Project

Rebel Seed Studio is in development on a forthcoming audio documentary to tell the story of the 1963 Freedom Walkers and murdered civil rights activist Bill Moore.

 For their generous donation to the documentary project, a heartfelt THANK YOU goes out to: Dave Kong, David Cleveland, Denise Reiss, Devesh Taskar, hawleycelia, James K. White II, Kenneth Bronstein, Mark Richardson, Martin Heinsdorf, Mary Stanton, Mike Newdow, Stephen Clark, sbogus, stonee76, walla993, and William Treloar.