WACO, Texas (AP) — Tom Moore Jr. has amassed honors, awards and the respect of legions during his days as a hard-charging district attorney, reformer legislator, compassionate attorney and self-styled liberal.

Now, at 91, and still practicing law every day, Moore may have achieved the highest honor bestowed upon an attorney — judges no longer require that he wear a tie into McLennan County courtrooms.

It’s a benefit that Moore has earned for the stellar practice of law for 66 years. However, he is quick to add that he would never abuse that privilege if he were in front of a jury.

“I have a great deal of respect for Tom’s legal ability,” said 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother. “He has such vast experience and has lived so long and has seen so much. He is the only lawyer that practices in front of me that I don’t require to wear a tie. I am quite certain that is a privilege he has earned.”

For the past decade or so, Moore has been delivering lunches to about 20 people in East Waco as part of the Meals on Wheels program. Everyone he brings food to is younger than he is, and Moore pauses sadly as he laments the number of folks who are no longer around on his route.

Waco attorney Guy Cox, who has shared law offices with Moore for 25 years, said Moore once asked him to take his place on the Meals on Wheels circuit because Moore was going to be out of town.

“Every door that I knocked on, it was ’Where is Mr. Tom, where is Tom, where is Mr. Moore?”’ Cox said. “They love him. For Tom, it is not only a service to the less fortunate. I think he believes that it is just the right thing that we as a society should do, and that is help the less fortunate.”

That includes not charging for about 60 percent of his law practice, Cox said, a fact confirmed by Moore’s wife of 25 years, Robbie.

“He hasn’t ever sent out a bill from his office,” she said. “He says if people are going to pay, they will pay.”

Moore offers a loud, hearty laugh at the suggestion that he might just be slowing down a bit, despite the fact that he is in the office every day and returns phone messages promptly.

His law office also plays hosts to friendly afternoon gin rummy games every day and it’s reported that Moore collects more cash from those games than he does from practicing law.

“The fellows who retire die, “ Moore says. “Somehow the will to survive doesn’t seem to carry on in retirement. And besides that’s not all. I love what I am doing and I have friends here and I have had my card game every afternoon here for the last 50 years. It’s a hoot. And you know at my age, everybody is nice to me.”

Moore was born in Waco May 16, 1918. His great-grandfather, Thomas Moore, was a lawyer and a doctor who moved to Burnet, Texas, from Kentucky before the Civil War. He later moved to Waco and was a law partner of Richard Coke, a former Texas governor and U.S. senator.

Moore’s father ran a lumber yard in Waco and Moore worked his way through Baylor University toiling at Cameron Mill. Moore’s maternal grandfather, Bonham Knight, was a printer and printed the infamous Iconoclast that came from the vitriolic pen of journalist William Cowper Brann.

Knight and Brann, whose favorite targets for his savage writings were Baylor and Baptists, were “friends and drinking buddies,” Moore said.

“One night, a group of Baptist supporters were going to hang Brann out at Baylor and a bunch of the good ol’ boys, including my Grandpa, got in their buggies and went out there and saved him,” Moore said.

Brann was shot in the back and killed in 1898 in downtown Waco by the father of a Baptist student who he thought had been smeared by his columns.

Moore’s first wife, Natalie, died in 1982 after 39 years of marriage. They had three children, Margaret Oliver, a former Travis county attorney who now works in the attorney general’s office; Tim Moore, a prominent criminal defense lawyer in Fort Worth; and Elizabeth, a housewife who lives in Waco. Moore also has seven grandkids and four great-granchildren.

In 1982, current-wife Robbie was getting a divorce and hired Moore to represent her. They struck up a friendship that developed into more despite the fact that Moore was 33 years her senior and older than Robbie’s father.

“My dad really liked him a lot and thought he was a really good guy,” says the 59-year-old Robbie. “But people do notice the age thing. Repairmen come to the door and ask what would your father like me to do. I say, ’Well, my father passed away five years ago, but my husband ...’ But Tom just acts so young. Several single friends my age have asked if Tom has any brothers. Everyone just loves him.”

Moore, who was in the Army from 1943 to 1946, served as McLennan County district attorney from 1952 to 1958. During that time, he prosecuted the first criminal trial to be televised in the United States.

It was in the early days of television and Moore and Bill Simpson, a young news editor at KWTX-TV in Waco, were talking about televising a trial sometime. In December 1955, a murder case in which Harry L. Washburn was the defendant was transferred to McLennan County from San Angelo because it had received a lot of media attention.

It was a sensational case in which Blackburn was charged with trying to kill his wealthy mother-in-law for cutting off him and her daughter from the family fortune. Blackburn put a bomb in her car, but it killed someone else by mistake. The case, Moore and Simpson thought, was made for television, and Judge D.W. Bartlett agreed to allow a TV camera in the balcony of 54th State District Court.

“Old Blackburn had tried to hire every thug in the Houston area to kill her, and they were all characters out of Damon Runyon, including a lady wrestler known as the Panther Lady,” Moore said.

“The jury never knew the camera was there because we didn’t want them to be affected by it, but we kept the camera on from the time they rapped it to order to the time we adjourned, with no ads and they televised the whole thing.”

Moore got a conviction against Blackburn, and he was sentenced to life in prison.

“The trial was better than the soap operas all the women in town were watching, and when we would recess the trial or go to lunch, the women would all go to the grocery store or run their errands so they wouldn’t miss any of it,” Moore said. “The manager of a department store downtown told me that if we were going to televise another one, don’t do it during the Christmas season. He said you could shoot a cannon down Austin Avenue during the trial and not hurt a soul.”

Moore was elected to the Texas House of Representatives and served from 1967 to 1973. During the 1971 session, he became one of a group known as the “Dirty 30” because they put aside party loyalty to force out Speaker Gus Mutscher, who ruled the chamber like a dictator and would later become embroiled in the infamous Sharpstown stock-fraud scandal.

“We were reformers,” Moore said. “We wanted to get something done about it, and Mutscher did wind up getting indicted over the thing. We held our meetings in my office because it was so far up in the top of the capitol, no one knew what we were doing up there. That is where we hatched the Dirty 30 and our push for reform.”

Also while in the House, Moore introduced a resolution to honor Albert DeSalvo for his “pioneering work in population control.” DeSalvo is better known as the Boston Strangler.

The story goes that Moore was trying to make a point that lawmakers routinely vote for measures without doing their homework and have no idea what they are. Moore says that’s not correct.

“Yes, it passed, but nobody got mad. It was an April Fool’s joke, but it made the press in a different light,” he said.

The gag got worldwide media attention from as far away as London and South Africa, Moore said. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin gave it the Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award on their TV show “Laugh In.”

Moore’s memory amazes his younger colleagues, including his friend and gin rummy partner Stanley Rentz, 71.

“Every lawyer should try a case with Tom Moore. It teaches you how to get to the bottom of the single most important element of a case without a lot of folderol. He can reduce things to the simplest of terms and has the most amazing memory of anyone I know. He does things so easily and I guess it’s because he is so smart and he knows how to fit all the pieces together,” Rentz said.

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