“I said to hell with the club, let’s fight the damn system. I don’t want no more than the white man got, but I won’t take no less,” These are famed words of Cecil Moore, defense attorney, and civil rights activist. Though he passed away more than four decades ago, he is still celebrated for his great efforts for the Black American communities.
While we don’t in any way seek to paint Cecil B Moore a perfect man, we can’t deny that the man had character traits that are worth emulating. Often great men who rise to the occasion to lead their communities or organizations often have flaws. But at the same time, their strengths are what make them exemplary in what they seek out to accomplish. Cecil B Moore was one such man, and today we will 5 qualities every man can learn from him.
He Was A Master at His Craft
After being honorably discharged from the Marine Corps, Moore decided to settle in Philadelphia, briefly considering a career in medicine before settling on law. He then enrolled in Temple University, often attending night classes and working during the day as a liquor wholesaler. Becoming a lawyer gave Moore the opportunity to make a good living and showcase his intellectual prowess.
He quickly established a reputation as an accomplished defense attorney and was known to rack in a dozen wins in the courtroom before losing a case—an incredible feat! During his tenure, his services were in such high demand that the City Hall judicial administration specially assigned one courtroom for ALL his cases.
At the time of his passing, he had engaged in over 300,000 cases and will be remembered as an exemplary criminal defense lawyer who built one of the largest criminal law practices in Philadelphia.
He Was Kind
Moore believed every person has a responsibility to help the less fortunate. During an interview with Philadelphia Inquirer, he said, “You can’t live in this world unless you help somebody”. And he truly lived out these words. Often Moore found himself representing poor African Americans in court for a small fee or at times for free.
If a client couldn’t afford his full fees, Moore would sometimes ask them to bake him a pie instead. Whether you paid him or not, if he agreed to represent you, he gave the best, most proficient legal defense he could.
He was Relatable
Though thoroughly educated, Cecil was never arrogant or entitled. Instead, he saw his education and success as just a means to an end—a tool to fight for his people. Even though he was raised in a middle-class family, he worked vigilantly to be a champion for the underserved and underprivileged.
He treated the poor Black folks in Philadelphia as his equals, listening to their pleas and going out of his way to fight for them. In fact, he often publicly spoke against fellow African Americans, who treat others with arrogance and elitism, once they got good jobs or moved out of the poor neighborhoods.
In one interview, Cecily Banks, the eldest of Moore’s three daughters, said that her father had “the right kind of charisma to connect in very visceral ways with everybody in the African American community.”
These traits made him relatable, something all sorts of people are naturally drawn to.Being relatable and approachable enabled Moore to rally thousands of his community members behind him during his numerous pickets and Civil rights protests.
He rose in popularity in the Black community and soon became the leader of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP. Under his administration, the local NAACP chapter’s membership increased from 7,000 in 1962 to 50,000 in the mid-60s
He Was Resilient
In a 1974 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Moore said of himself: “Yeah, I’m everything everybody says except two - I’m not a hypocrite and I’m not a quitter.” This wasn’t a man engaging in self-praise but one simply stating how he lived his life. For example, Girard College restricted admission to white students based on the 1831 last will of the founder Stephen Girard.
Moore was against this and in 1965, he orchestrated protests outside Girard College every day for seven months for refusing to admit African American students. The court eventually sided with him and overturned the founder's will, allowing admittance of Black students for the first time in 1968.
This is just one of the many examples of instances he showed resilience and fought for what he believed in.
Cecil Moore Was a Well Dressed Man
Moore was also meticulous about his clothes, never appearing with a cufflink or tie bar out of place. He was one of the most dapper-dressed men of his era. Wearing a nice suit for a big meeting or presentation helps you feel more confident and ready to take on the tasks that come your way.
Moore understood this and was known to always show up to protests in a suit and tie. He appreciated that how he looked had a direct impact on how people perceived him.
Here, at Compass Longview, we are big proponents of dressing well and believe every man needs to have a sense of style. When you dress well, you know it and others know it.
Moore died from cardiac arrest at age 63 in 1979, but his legacy as a civil rights leader has lived on.