William Lewis Moody, Jr., financial magnate and entrepreneur, was born in Fairfield, Texas, on January 25, 1865, the son of Pherabe Elizabeth (Bradley) and William Lewis Moody. He was a sickly child, one of only three of the six Moody children who lived to adulthood. At the age of nine he was sent to Roanoke, Virginia, to attend Hollins Institute. After a time at two other boarding schools in Virginia, he went to Virginia Military Institute in Lexington. In 1884–85 he and his brother Frank went to Germany to further their education. After returning home Moody briefly studied law at the University of Texas before joining his father's firm on his twenty-first birthday in 1886. Moody married Libbie Rice Shearn of Houston at Hull, Massachusetts, on August 26, 1890. After a brief stay in New York as the representative of W. L. Moody and Company, he closed the New York office, and the Moodys returned to Galveston. They had four children, Mary Elizabeth (Mrs. E. C. Northen), William Lewis III, Shearn, and Libbie (who married Clark W. Thompson III). Shearn died of pneumonia in 1936, but the other three outlived their father. Mary Moody Northen became the head of the family enterprises on her father's death.
Moody persuaded his father to open a bank in 1889. Later, the family acquired the National Bank of Texas, which became the W. L. Moody Bank. In 1907 Moody opened the City National Bank, which later became Moody National Bank. Upon his father's death in 1920, he became president of W. L. Moody and Company, Bankers, and the W. L. Moody Cotton Company. Moody had entered the insurance business in 1905 by helping to organize the American National Insurance Company. In 1908 he bought out his partners and was able to take advantage of new state laws designed to encourage insurance firms in Texas and expand the company. In 1920 he established the American Printing Company of Galveston. In 1927 he formed the National Hotel Corporation, which built such hotels as the Buccaneer and the Jean Lafitte in Galveston and acquired a number of other hotels including the Menger Hotel in San Antonio, the Galvez in Galveston, Mountain Lake in Virginia, and the Hotel Washington in Washington, D.C. Moody purchased the Galveston News, the oldest continuously operating newspaper in Texas, from Alfred H. Belo in 1923; three years later he acquired the Galveston Tribune. He also owned as many as eleven ranches in Texas and Oklahoma. Although not a true cattleman, he enjoyed the ranches and used them for duck hunting and fishing, his primary forms of relaxation, as well as for cattle, sheep, and goat raising.
While not as active as his father in Democratic politics, he was involved in Pat M. Neff's bid for the presidential nomination in 1924 and was a member of the Texas delegation to the 1924 convention. He remained close to William Jennings Bryan until Bryan's death in 1925. Moody served one term, 1921–23, as treasurer of the city of Galveston. He also was a colonel on Charles A. Culberson's staff in the Texas National Guard. Moody's legacy to the people of Texas was the Moody Foundation of Galveston, established by Moody and his wife in 1942. The foundation focused on a small number of projects, including the Moody State School for Cerebral Palsied Children, before Moody's death. When the estate was transferred to the foundation on December 29, 1959, the foundation became one of the largest in the United States. It continues to be a major force in health, historical preservation, and education. Moody was active until two days before his death, on July 21, 1954.