Opinion – 2/16/2007

Published 12:00 am Friday, February 16, 2007

The Panolian: OPINIONS – Rupert Howell

 From the 02/16/07 issue of The Panolian        

Rupert Howell

Moore looked after SP District during many years of public service

Former South Panola School Board President James H. Moore of Pope died Wednesday at the Baptist Hospital in Oxford following a lengthy illness.

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Moore served the South Panola District for 42 years as trustee helping guide the district through consolidation and desegregation in the 1960s and ’70s. Moore also helped guide many bond issues through the electorate assuring that school buildings and facilities kept up with needs.

Moore was quietly biased toward his community of Pope and the school located there. A 1937 graduate of Pope High School, he saw that improvements were made there when the rest of the district, mostly located in Batesville, received improvements. That emphasis on Pope School not only kept the facilities updated and maintained, it helped convince Pope area residents to vote for the bond issues.

When the district needed a new federal/state projects coordinator who also traditionally served as assistant superintendent, a young teacher/journalist named David Cole was hired.

Cole currently serves as Itawamba Community College President said Thursday, "Mr. Moore provided quiet leadership for the community for over five decades through education, agriculture and business. He was our living example of the "The Greatest Generation", through his dependable, steady hand in all that he did. His service to his country, love of his family and contributions to the region leaves an exemplary legacy."

It was probably no coincidence that Cole was a native of Pope and was raised in Yocona River Bottom just below Moore’s home and farm land. Cole would soon be the youngest superintendent in the state of Mississippi.

Later when school board attorney George C. Carlson was appointed to fill an unexpired term of Circuit Judge, it was no coincidence that Moore and his ally Cole lobbied for another Pope area native, Ronnie Musgrove, to be attorney for the school board.

In his position as school board attorney, Musgrove would become very familiar with issues concerning education. Musgrove was later elected to serve as state senator from his district, then elected to two terms as lieutenant governor and as governor with educators being a large portion of his supporters. While serving as governor, Musgrove appointed Carlson to the Mississippi Supreme Court and Cole was named Musgrove’s chief of staff. Moore "had the ear" of each and probably many more through his years of service.

A 1941 graduate of Mississippi State, Moore served as commanding officer of the USS Raccoon and was decorated with the Silver Star and the Oak Leaf Cluster for gallantry in combat.

He returned to Pope to farm and operate a store, and with his wife of 60 years, he raised five children. He served on committees, boards and associations until recent health problems curtailed his activity.

Visitation will be held today from 5 p.m. until 9 p.m. at Batesville Junior High School. It’s the school building that was new in 1967 when the desegregation was beginning and would soon house all high school students in the South Panola School District. That new building served to take some of the "ours" and "theirs" away from unknowns of combining the predominantly white South Panola School with the predominantly black Patton Lane School.

It’s almost ironic that race won’t be an issue when we mourn Mr. James Hal’s death there, today.

Rupert Howell may be contacted at P.O. Box 1616, Batesville, MS 38606 or email at rupert@panolian.com.

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