Born:February 11,1947 (age 62), Gadsen, Alabama
Spouse(s): Kayla Kisor Moore
Children : Ory, Caleb,Micah and Heather
Residence : Yazoo, Mississippi
Alma mater: University of Mississippi
Education and military service
Moore was born in Gadsden, the seat of Etowah County to Roy Baxter Moore (died 1967) and the former Evelyn Stewart. The couple had met and married after his discharge from the United States Army during World War II. Roy was the oldest of five children, three boys and two girls, born to the couple. Moore describes his father, a construction worker, as “a hardworking man who earned barely enough to make ends meet, but he taught me more than money could ever buy. From him I learned about honesty, integrity, perseverance, and never to be ashamed of who you are or what you believe in. Early on my dad shared with me the truth about God’s love and the sacrifice of His own son, Jesus.” Moore described his mother as a “homemaker who was always there to help me with my schoolwork.”
In 1954, the Moores relocated to Houston, Texas, site of a postwar building boom. After some four years, they returned to Alabama, then moved to Pennsylvania, and returned permanently to Alabama. In his later year, the senior Moore worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority building dams and later the Anniston Army Depot. Moore attended school his freshman year at Gallant near Gadsden but transferred to Etowah County High School for his final three years of public education, having graduated in 1965.
On the recommendation of outgoing Democratic U.S. Representative Albert Rains and confirmed by incoming Republican Representative James D. Martin, Moore was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, where he graduated in 1969 with a bachelor of science degree. With the Vietnam War underway, Moore first served in several posts as a military police officer, including Fort Benning, Georgia, and Illesheim, Germany before being sent to South Vietnam. Moore served as company commander of his MP unit and was known to be very strict. Some of the soldiers gave him the derogatory nickname, “Captain America,” because of his attitude toward discipline. His role earned him several enemies, and in his autobiography he recalls sleeping on sandbags to avoid a grenade or bomb being tossed under his cot, as many had threatened fragging the commander.
Moore left the United States Army as a captain in 1974, and was admitted to the University of Alabama School of Law in Tuscaloosa that same year. He graduated in 1977 with a Juris Doctor degree and returned to Gadsden to begin private practice with a focus on personal injury and insurance cases.
Elections and travels
Moore soon moved to the district attorney’s office, working as the first full-time prosecutor in Etowah County. During his tenure there, Moore was investigated by the state bar for “suspect conduct” after convening a grand jury to discuss what he perceived to have been funding shortages in the sheriff’s office. Several weeks after the state bar investigation was dismissed as unfounded, Moore quit his prosecuting position to run as a Democrat for the county’s circuit-court judge seat in 1982. The election was bitter, with Moore alleging that cases were being delayed in exchange for payoffs. The allegations were never substantiated, and Moore overwhelmingly lost the Democratic runoff primary to fellow attorney Donald Stewart, whom Moore described as “an honorable man for whom I have much respect, and he eventually became a close friend.” A second bar complaint against Moore followed, and though this too was dismissed as unfounded, Moore left Gadsden shortly thereafter in great disappointment.
Moore’s travels eventually took him to Texas, where he spent a year training and fighting professionally as a kickboxer. After a brief return to Gadsden, Moore next travelled to the Australian Outback and, after meeting Fundamentalist Christian Colin Rolfe, worked for almost a year as a cowboy on Rolfe’s 42,000-acre (170km2) cattle ranch. He remembered both careers fondly in his autobiography and subsequent interviews and was particularly proud of a kickboxing victory in the Greater Gadsden Tournament of Champions, a triumph he attributed to divine will.
Moore returned to Gadsden again in 1985. He ran in 1986 for Etowah County’s district attorney position against fellow Democrat Jimmy Hedgspeth. He lost that election as well, and Moore returned to private practice in the city. During this period, he married his wife Kayla, switched his affiliation to the GOP, and added to his office a wooden Ten Commandments plaque that he had personally carved in 1980.
In 1992, Etowah County Circuit Judge Julius Swann died in office. Republican Governor Guy Hunt was charged with making a temporary appointment until the next election. Moore’s name was floated by some of his associates, and a background check was initiated with several state and county agencies, including the Etowah County district attorney’s office. Moore’s former political opponent Jimmy Hedgspeth, who still helmed the D.A.’s office, recommended Moore despite personal reservations, and Moore was installed in the position he had failed to win in 1982. “The impossible had happened!” Moore wrote afterward. “God had given me something that I had not been able to obtain through my own efforts.”
Early prayer/Ten Commandments controversy
Roy Moore’s wooden Ten Commandments plaque.
When Moore’s tenure as circuit judge began, he brought his wooden Ten Commandments plaque with him, hanging it on the walls of his courtroom behind his bench. Moore told the Montgomery Advertiser that his intention in hanging the plaque was to fill up the bare space on the courtroom walls and to indicate the importance of the Ten Commandments. He states that it was not his intention to generate controversy; still, as he told the Atlantic, he understood that the potential for controversy was there, but “I wanted to establish the moral foundation of our law.”
Soon after his appointment, when Moore presided over a case where two male strippers (known professionally as “Silk” and “Satin”) were charged with murdering a drug addict, the attorney for the defendants objected to the display. This drew the attention of critics, who also objected to Moore’s practice of opening court sessions with a prayer beseeching Divine Guidance for jurors in their deliberations. (In at least one instance, Judge Moore asked a clergyman to lead the court’s jury pool in prayer.) Though such pre-session prayers were not uncommon in Alabama, having begun many years earlier by George C. Wallace, Jr., when he was a circuit judge, the local branch of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sent a letter in June 1993 with the threat of a lawsuit if such prayers did not cease.
On June 20, 1994, the ACLU sent a representative to Moore’s courtroom to observe and record the pre-session prayer. Though the organization did not immediately file suit, Moore decried the action as an “act of intimidation” in a post-trial press conference. The incident drew additional attention to Moore just as he was campaigning to hold onto his circuit court seat. In that year’s election, Moore won the seat in a landslide victory over local attorney Keith Pitts, who had (unsuccessfully) prosecuted the “Silk and Satin” murder case.
In March 1995, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against Moore, claiming that the pre-session prayers and the Ten Commandments display were both unconstitutional. This original lawsuit was eventually dismissed for technical reasons, but Governor Fob James instructed state Attorney General Bill Pryor to file suit in Montgomery County in support of Moore. The case ended up before state Circuit Judge Charles Price, who in 1996 declared the prayers unconstitutional but initially allowed the Ten Commandments plaque to remain on the courtroom walls.
Immediately after the ruling, Moore held a press conference vowing to defy the ruling against pre-session prayers and affirming a religious intent in displaying the plaque. Critics responded by asking Price to reconsider his previous ruling, and the judge issued a new ruling requiring the Ten Commandments plaque to be removed in ten days. Moore appealed Price’s decision and kept the plaque up; ten days later the Alabama Supreme Court issued a temporary stay against the ruling. The Court never ruled in the case, throwing it out for technical reasons in 1998.
On the day that the circuit court ruling was stayed, Moore appeared on the national morning program Today, praising the ruling and vowing to continue his practices. A poll released soon after found that 88 percent of Alabamians supported Moore. Though Moore was later investigated by the state Judicial Ethics Committee regarding the use of money raised by Coral Ridge Ministries in his defense, the investigation eventually ended with no charges being brought. The practice of opening court sessions with prayer, though not uniform throughout Alabama, continues in state courtrooms today.
Chief Justice, Alabama Supreme Court
Campaign and election
In late 1999, the Christian Family Association began working to draft Moore into the race for Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court, when incumbent Republican Perry O. Hooper, Sr., of Montgomery announced that he would not seek reelection. Moore said that he was hesitant to make the statewide race because he had “absolutely no funds” and three other candidates, particularly Associate Justice Harold See, were well-financed.
Nevertheless, on December 7, 1999, Moore announced from his Etowah County courtroom that he would enter the race with hope of returning “God to our public life and restore the moral foundation of our law.” His campaign, centered on religious issues, arguing that Christianity’s declining influence “corresponded directly with school violence, homosexuality, and crime.”
Associate Justice Harold See was the heavy favorite to win the Republican nomination because of his support from the state business community and the party hierarchy, including Chief Justice Hooper. However, as Moore made headway in state polls, See elicited the help of Republican strategist Karl Rove, advisor to Texas Governor and future President George W. Bush. Despite Rove’s support and significantly more campaign funding, See lost the primary to Moore, who then easily defeated Democratic contender Sharon Yates in November’s general election.
Moore was sworn in as Chief Justice on January 15, 2001. Former U.S. Representative James Martin, who had appointed him to West Point years earlier, was among the dignitaries in attendance. On taking the position, Moore said that he had “come to realize the real meaning of the First Amendment and its relationship to the God on whom the oath was based. My mind had been opened to the spiritual war occurring in our state and our nation that was slowly removing the knowledge of that relationship between God and law.
“I pledged to support not only the U.S. Constitution, but the Alabama Constitution as well, which provided in its preamble that the state ‘established justice’ by ‘invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God.’ The connection between God and our law could not be more clear …”