William R. Moore

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William Robert “Wm. R.” Moore
William R. Moore Tennessee.png
Former State Representative
from Tennessee

From: 1889–1891
Predecessor ???
Successor ???
Former U.S. Representative from Tennessee's 10th Congressional District
From: March 4, 1881 – March 3, 1883
Predecessor H. Casey Young
Successor H. Casey Young
Party Republican
Spouse(s) Charlotte Haywood Blood
Religion Presbyterian

William Robert Moore (March 28, 1830 – June 12, 1909), also known as Wm. R. Moore,[1] was an entrepreneur and Republican congressman from Tennessee who represented the state's (now-defunct) 10th congressional district, situated in Memphis, for one term in the United States House of Representatives.

Moore is best known for laying the groundwork for the William R. Moore College of Technology, which he left a large sum of money to build for the purpose of educating future generations.[2]

Background and early business career

Moore was born to an aristocratic family[1] in Huntsville, Alabama, located in the mountainous northern portion of the state, on March 28, 1830.[2] When just six months old, his father died, and the subsequently destitute family resorted to farming.[1] They moved to Beech Grove, Tennessee while Moore was an infant, and later to the city of Fosterville when he was six.

He attended local schools and became a farmhand at the age of twelve, during which he earned twenty-four dollars and managed to save half of the amount at the end of the year.[2] A dry goods store clerk at the age of fifteen, he proceeded to become a wholesale salesman.[2] Moore reportedly "had a knack" for business, managing to clerk for one of Nashville's largest dry goods stores.[1]

For some time, Moore settled in New York,[2] becoming a salesman there in the field of retail business.[1] He soon moved back to Tennessee, this time residing in the city of Memphis, where the wholesale dry goods business Wm. R. Moore, Inc., was established.

Political feuds

When residing in Memphis, Moore was regarded as the city's "most insulted resident."[1] Opposing secession in the Southern state of Tennessee and also staunchly supporting Republican President Abraham Lincoln, a historian noted:

...he was publicly abused, vilified, and held in contempt. The attack was so severe the Presbyterian congregation of which he was a member threw him out.

—Historian Paul Coppock

During the American Civil War, Moore maintained a low profile and made clever business decisions. Correctly predicting that money in the Confederacy would become of little worth in the likely circumstance that the South lost, he spent his money on downtown property rather than save it.[1] Following the war, when the Union emerged victorious, Moore became a wealthy landowner while rival businessmen faced bankruptcy.

Spearheading sanitation efforts

During the yellow fever epidemic of 1879, Moore was among the first to promote a committee on sanitation in Memphis that would improve the city's drinking water system.[1] As a result, breeding grounds for mosquito activities, which caused the plague, were eliminated.

Brief congressional stint

In 1880, Moore ran for the U.S. House of Representatives from Tennessee's 10th congressional district (based in the southwestern portion of the state in Memphis), facing incumbent Democrat H. Casey Young. Although the GOP vote was siphoned away by another Republican candidate, Moore managed to narrowly defeat Young by four percentage points.[3]

During his two years in Congress, Moore held a mostly conservative voting record, with the DW-NOMINATE system giving him a score of 0.456 on the first dimension.[4] He was also considered more conservative than 90% of all House members during the congressional session, in addition to being more conservative than 81% of Republicans.

Moore declined to run for re-election in the 1882 midterms, instead retiring from the House after one term. He was succeeded by Young.

Moore votes against the Pendleton Act

Little substantial information is known about Moore's short congressional tenure, though he notably was one of seven House Republicans (along with Benjamin Marsh, George W. Steele, John R. Thomas, Orlando Hubbs, James Robinson, and Robert Smalls) to vote against the Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act in the lame duck session preceding the 48th Congress.[5]

The Pendleton Act replaced the traditional spoils system with a civil service system, and was favored by Democrats led by George H. Pendleton who resented Republican usage of patronage to benefit blacks.[6] Civil service reform was opposed during the late 1870s by conservative Stalwarts, most of whom ultimately caved into voting for the Pendleton Act following the assassination of James A. Garfield by the mentally ill Charles J. Guiteau.

Post-Congress career

After leaving the U.S. House, Moore continued his business activities. He also successfully ran for the Tennessee state House of Representatives, where he similarly served for a single term from 1889 to 1891.

On December 9, 1891, Moore gave a tribute to the late president William McKinley, who had been assassinated.[7]

Death, posthumous construction of Moore Tech

Wm. R. Moore of Memphis.jpeg

Moore died in 1909 at the age of seventy-nine and is interred at Forest Hill Cemetery. He left a large amount of money for the purpose of:[2]

education and training of youths in the mechanical arts and sciences, including electricity, and the operation and maintenance of a manual and scientific training institution.

—Moore, 1909

A subsequently selected board of trustees picked by prominent Memphis leaders chartered the William R. Moore College of Technology to be operated under the "methods and principles observed in the best institutions."[2] Moore's money was invested by the board along with that of his widow Charlotte Blood Moore (1852–1918) following her death. The construction of the institution began in 1938, and the first class in the college began in January of the following year.[2]

According to the website of the William R. Moore College of Technology:[2]

Mr. Moore’s dream has continued uninterrupted. Initially no tuition was charged. Today the college works hard on ensuring to keep tuition costs down and makes sure to help students with grants, scholarships, and Pell funding to cover costs. The college curricula has evolved over the years to keep up with the needs of a changing job market. Moore Tech has provided important vocational training to tens of thousands of students throughout the mid-south.

—William R. Moore College of Technology


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 Lauderdale, Vance (November 1, 2012). William R. Moore. Memphis Magazine. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 Historical Development. Moore Tech. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  3. TN - District 10 Race - Nov 02, 1880. Our Campaigns. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  4. MOORE, William Robert (1830-1909). Voteview. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  5. TO PASS S. 133, A BILL REGULATING AND IMPROVING THE U. S. CIVIL SERVICE. (J.P. 163). GovTrack.us. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  6. Matthews, Dylan (July 20, 2016). Donald Trump and Chris Christie are reportedly planning to purge the civil service. Vox. Retrieved December 18, 2021.
  7. December 10, 1899. POET'S SONG OF EXPANSION.; "Political Polliwogs," by ex-Congressman William Robert Moore of Tennessee. The New York Times. Retrieved December 18, 2021.

External links