Editor’s note: Keith Shelton is a former editor of the Record-Chronicle and retired University of North Texas journalism professor. He wrote this story for the newspaper back in the 1970s. We reprint it here as part of our observance of Black History Month.
Any history of the black community in Denton has to revolve around three things — the school, the churches and Fred Moore.
A grandson of slaves whose parents were illiterate and whose father was a Native American, Frederick Douglass Moore built a successful business as a barber with all white clients, got himself educated through a master’s degree from Columbia University in New York and saw the Fred Moore School through its creation and expansion.
He helped the black community get the school, the Fred Moore Park and the cemetery space in Southeast Denton. His leadership set many a black child on the path to self-improvement and career success.
Moore was responsible for the first paved streets in Denton’s black community, which was mostly segregated back in his day. He also lectured to many classes at what is now the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University.
His daughters were Denton leaders themselves. Alice Alexander retired after 45 years of teaching, 41 of them at Fred Moore School. [Denton ISD school board recently named an elementary school after Alexander]. Hazel Young taught in Gainesville for 19 years and a dozen years in Denton. She was assistant director of the Fred Moore Day Nursery. Daisy Moore Punch retired after 25 years as a maid at Bruce Hall at UNT. Lela LaBlondell Moore worked at a hospital for 37 years. Two of his sons died during childhood.
In addition, Moore’s wife, Sadie, was a well-known seamstress in Denton, sewing for stores, the universities, theater groups and others.
Fred Moore’s father disappeared when Fred was born on Jan. 1, 1875. Fred was raised by his stepfather, Henry Lucian Moore, who was once a servant to Sam Bass, an infamous Texas outlaw. Henry Moore came to Denton about the time the first courthouse was built.
Henry Lucian Moore was the first black janitor at UNT. He died in the early 1920s.
Fred Moore was named by Dr. Lucile Owsley a white woman doctor, after Fred Douglass, the journalist, orator and anti-slavery leader. Fred’s mother, Janie, was a cook and housekeeper in the home of Alvin Owsley, a prominent Denton leader, and grew up as part of the family.
Fred Moore met his wife at a Juneteenth celebration in Lewisville. He was playing cornet in a 14-piece band he had formed. He also organized a string band that played for white social events and had a minstrel show.
Moore became know as “Professor” Moore, later shortened to “Prof” Moore.
The Moores were married in 1902 in a big church wedding. Sadie made her own wedding dress.
The Moore home was a stop for circuit preachers, who exerted an influence on Fred Moore. The Moore home was at 501 Center St. in a white neighborhood. They had many white neighbors, including Ann Sheridan, who became a famous actress. She lived on Bernard Street.
Moore put in his barbershop under the Denton County National Bank on the downtown Square. His barbers included Jack Allen, George Whitten, Duck Crow and E.J. Milam. Edward Watson shined shoes.
He moved his barber shop to Oak Street, just off the Square. He cut hair for eight or nine years. In about 1910, Sadie urged him to go to school and become a teacher. He studied at home and got a certificate by examination.
Just prior to World War I, Moore became principal of what was then the Fred Douglass School, a four-room school with only one teacher, Ella Hampton.
He borrowed money to go to Prairie View A&M University in the summers starting in 1917 and by 1921 he graduated. Not content, he went to Fisk College in Nashville to work on his master’s and later went to Columbia University.
As at teacher, Moore always was immaculate. He even wore a coat to the breakfast table, his daughters remembered. He taught Latin and was a counselor in addition to being principal. He had 15 or 20 pairs of shoes. He thought if he looked good, it would let students know they were supposed to be well groomed.
His students every day found a different quotation on the board urging them to improve.
Sadie Moore started teaching in 1928.
Among the longtime teachers at the school were Beulah Taylor, Mary Lee Burrow, Eva Hodge, Olivia Ammons, Gladys Johnson, Pauline Smith, Lucille Nix, Parthenia Brooks, Emma Jones and Eula Ray.
All of the Moore children went to the Fred Douglass-Fred Moore School.
When he was 19, Fred Moore became Sunday School superintendent of the Mt. Pilgrim CME Church.
He was instrumental in getting the five-acre park now known as Fred Moore Park.
Moore and four others raised $70 to buy some land for the black community to bury its dead. That was not enough money, but white leaders who admired their work gave them the land. It was there that Moore was buried when he died in 1953.
Fred Moore also was involved when the black community was forced to leave what is now called Quakertown. They moved “across the wire” to what was named the Fred Moore Addition.
The black area bounded by McKinney Street, Oakland Street, Vine Street and Bell Avenue had a lodge hall and the AME Church, which had a school. One resident was E.W. Morton, a physician.
St. James AME Church was built on Oakland Street in 1899. It was moved to Southeast Denton in 1922.
Rufus Tankersley opened a barber and beauty shop and a cafe in the new African-American community. Marvin Alexander, husband of Alice Moore Alexander, had a theater, a drug store, a grocery store, a hotel and a tailor shop,
One of the oldest businesses in Denton was the Citizens Undertaking Company, operated by William Jones.. His widow and nephew operated the funeral home after he died.
A center of religious and social activity in the black community has always been the church. Mt. Pilgrim, St. James, Pleasant Grove, St. Emanuel Baptist and St. Andrew Church of God in Christ are very old churches, some much more than 100 years old.
St. Andrew was organized by the Rev. Fred L. Haynes, father of former UNT and professional football player Abner Haynes. He was pastor for 46 years and became a bishop of the church.
The Rev. M.P. Lambert and his son, Luther Lambert, were pastors of St. James.
Another major element in the black community has been the Lakey Street American Legion Post No. 840. It was organized just after World War II. For many years it was led by Noble Holland. It has been a community service center since its beginning, known as a social meeting place. It has sponsored food baskets for the needy, collected clothing and furniture for people whose homes burned, sponsored candidates’ forums.
It formerly was the Penn, Reynolds Jones Post, named for three men killed in World War II. Robert Williams was the first commander. Marvin Alexander did the main carpentry work. The post was dedicated in April of 1957.
Holland was a Navy veteran of the South Pacific on a transport. A resident of Denton from 1924, he worked for UNT and TWU for 30 years. He later worked for the Denton post office.