Frederick Douglas Moore, educator and African American community leader, was born in Denton, Texas, to Mary Jane “Janie” Goodall on January 1, 1875. The delivery was performed by Dr. Louisa Mansfield Owsley, the first female homeopathic doctor in Denton, and Owsley suggested that the baby be named in honor of the famed civil rights leader of that era. Moore’s father was a Native American man who disappeared before his birth, and when Fred Moore was a year old, his mother married Henry Lucien Moore. Henry Moore adopted the baby, so his full name became Frederick Douglas Moore. The Moores supported their family by working at a variety of manual and domestic jobs—Janie Moore worked for the prominent Owsley family, and Henry Moore worked at a local mill and later a brick factory. After the teacher’s college that is now the University of North Texas opened in 1890, Henry Moore became its first janitor.
Fred Moore attended the Frederick Douglass School, Denton’s first and only “colored school,” until he reached the ninth grade and began working to support his family. However, he continued studying independently and was largely self-taught. By some accounts, Moore was so well-read that by the time he was ten he was appointed secretary of the Sunday school at the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church (now Christian Methodist Episcopal Church) to which his family belonged. He also began collecting books and articles on the Bible and used them to teach his mother, a former slave, how to read. He continued to be active in the church and was elected superintendent of the Sunday school at the Mount Pilgrim CME Church when he was nineteen. By 1898 he was a delegate to the annual CME conference, and in 1901 he was elected president of the local Epworth League. He also began to play a variety of musical instruments.
Moore’s first job away from home was at a bank. Then, he began using his musical talents. In the early 1890s he organized a fourteen-piece cornet band that performed at public gatherings throughout Denton County, including local Juneteenth celebrations. He also led a string band that played for dances and formal occasions. His bands became popular, and he adopted the oft-used bandleader moniker of “The Professor.” During the 1890s he also served in an auxiliary capacity in Company D, Fourth Infantry Regiment of the Texas Volunteer Guard, also known as the Owsley Rifles. By about 1900 Moore was operating a barbershop in the basement of the post office at the northeast corner of Locust and Walnut streets in downtown Denton. The shop later moved to a new location on Oak Street.
Moore met his wife, Sarah “Sadie” Brotherton, when he took his band to Lewisville to play for a Juneteenth picnic and celebration. They were married in Denton on March 7, 1901. The couple eventually raised four daughters—Lelia, Alice, Hazel, and Daisy. They also had at least one son, Charles Wilbur, who passed away before the age of seven.
About 1910 Sadie Moore learned of a vacancy in the Frederick Douglass School for African Americans in Denton, and she convinced Fred Moore that he should turn to education as a profession. He began studying and passed an examination to earn his teacher’s certificate. He became principal of the school in 1915 and began a career in education that spanned nearly forty years.
Moore continued to study while teaching and borrowed money to attend summer school sessions at Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College (now Prairie View A&M University) from 1917 to 1921; he graduated in 1921. He later attended Fisk University in Nashville and did graduate work at Columbia University in New York.
As principal of Denton’s only school for African Americans from 1915 to 1953, Moore quickly assumed a leading role in Denton’s close-knit African American community. In addition to his administrative role at the school, Moore also taught arithmetic and Latin, conducted adult education courses, and continued to pursue his musical passions as director of a large choral ensemble that performed throughout the city. A well-respected educator, he was invited to lecture at North Texas State Teachers College (now the University of North Texas) and the Texas State College for Women (now Texas Woman’s University) on the importance of education for African Americans. At a time when public spaces and social services were strictly segregated, his status allowed him to work within the confines of the Jim Crow South to lobby city leaders and raise funds for improvements to Denton’s African American neighborhoods, including newly-paved roads, public cemeteries, parks, and recreational facilities. Moore also served as committee chairman of Denton’s first “colored” Boy Scout troop, led fundraising drives during World War I and World War II, and briefly administered a satellite campus in Denton for the newly-formed Texas State University for Negroes (now Texas Southern University).
In recognition of his achievements on behalf of Denton’s black community, the city of Denton dedicated Fred Moore Park in 1948 and named the newly-built Fred Moore High School in his honor in 1949. Additionally, he was selected “Man of the Year” for 1949 by Applause magazine. As a leader in his church and community, Fred Moore influenced generations of students with his philosophy based on the following rules of conduct:
Exercise self-control; control tongues, thoughts, temper and actions.
Never ridicule or defile the character of another.
Keep your self-respect and help others to keep theirs.
Kindness; be kind in thoughts and never despise anyone.
Be kind in speech, never gossip or speak unkindly of others.
Good health is important. Keep yourself clean in body and mind.
Be self-reliant, but listen to the advice of wiser and older people.
Develop independence and wisdom.
Act according to what seems right and fair.
Never fear being laughed at for doing what is right.
Be brave. A coward does not make a good citizen.
Always play fair. Never cheat.
Always treat your opponents with courtesy.
Fred Moore died on September 28, 1953, and was buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Denton, Texas. In 1955 the Fred Moore Day Nursery School was established by local philanthropists and named in his honor. Moore’s daughter, Hazel Moore Young, ran the school for several years before moving on to teach at public schools in Gainesville and Denton. Another daughter, Alice Moore Alexander, taught in Denton public schools for more than forty years. In 2017 the Denton school board decided to rename a local elementary school in her honor.