“Live Right in the Sight of the Lord”

Brother Mose picture

Brother Mose Graham

Brother Mose Graham was hired by my Pop to maintain the large yard and grounds at our home, and he faithfully worked for us for about fifteen years. He was a fun loving, kind and gentle man whose philosophy of life still impacts me today. His tenure with us was prior to the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, but we treated him as family as much as the culture of the day would allow.

I knew Brother Mose better than anyone in our family and probably better than most of his friends. The simple reason is because I spent so much time with him listening to his stories, his songs, watching him dance little jigs and learning his philosophy of life. After my sister Marilyn married George Berry in 1957, George got to know Brother Mose like all of the family, and for years we loved recounting our remembrances of him.

One of the stories I often heard from Brother Mose concerned his experience of a boxing match he had with the star of a travelling boxing troupe. During the depression years of the 1930’s up to World War II there were frequent travelling shows all across middle America. These shows provided various forms of entertainment to locals who couldn’t afford the expense of travel to the larger cities. One such troupe which came to El Dorado was a boxing team featuring their star boxer named “Battlin’ Red.” Any local who was brave enough to pay one dollar and stay in the ring with Red for at least one round without getting knocked down would earn five dollars. Mose was a young man then in his twenties and was nimble on his feet. He said he was able to get a few good licks on Red but mostly dodged his blows long enough to earn his five dollars. Mose said there were other men were not so fortunate and lost their dollar to ole’ “Battlin’ Red.”

Brother Mose loved to sing and could even play a few songs on the guitar. When I purchased my first guitar in 1956 for ten dollars from “Cousin” Willie Dykes, Brother Mose showed me how to play his favorite (and only) vocal guitar piece entitled, I Walked All the Way from East St. Louis. His acapella repertoire was more extensive, and his favorite song which he constantly sang or hummed was Precious Lord.  Other songs which we remember and can still sing today include The Foxes Love the Low Ground, the Gooses Love the Hills; Let the Wind Blow Low; Who Been Here Since I Been Gone?; Poppa Didn’t Raise No Cotton and Corn and There Will Be Peace in the Valley. Marilyn and I heard those songs so often we can sing them today.

A belief which Brother Mose had which neither Marilyn nor I challenged concerned a name he thought was ascribed to God. I don’t remember how the conversation began, but he told us he knew “another name” for God. When asked to explain he said the other name was “Hallow.” “How do you know that Brother Mose?” one of us asked. He said, “In the Lord’s Prayer it says, Our Father which art in heaven; Hallow would ‘a been thy name.” One of us replied with smiles, “We didn’t know that!”

The only bad habit we saw in Brother Mose was he loved to smoke “ceegareets,” as he  pronounced them. When I acquired the taste for cigarettes at the tender age of ten years along with a neighborhood friend, John Lee Anthony we would frequently “bum” a smoke from Brother Mose. He made us promise to not let “Dr. Mo'” know about our little secret, because it would get him in a heap o’ trouble.

Brother Mose worked for our family during the years of racial segregation. Nation-wide and locally there was complete separation of the races to the shame of our nation. Neither Brother Mose nor Sister Bobbie, who also worked for us were allowed to eat their meals in our dining room. I didn’t know about the restriction until I was about six or seven years old, but when Marilyn and I were at home alone with them we tried to get them to join us for a meal at our table. They simply would not do it, because segregation was so ingrained in them. If either of them had any anger toward us concerning this injustice, we never knew it.

I didn’t know much about Brother Moses’ home life except he was married to Eloise. They never had children together, but helped raise two small children to adult-hood and considered them their own. I don’t think they remained very close to them after the children were grown. Mose and Eloise attended church at Morning Star Baptist Church, but I don’t know how regular they were in attendance.

Many times both Marilyn and I heard Brother Mose say his philosophy of life was “Live right in the sight of the Lord,” and I believe he did. He was kind, loving, generous, forgiving and without any guile. As I think back on his life and the circumstances he endured, I consider him to be one of the most outstanding men I have known.

When he was in his late sixties in age, he developed lung cancer from the many “ceegareets” he smoked over a lifetime. He received very good end of life medical care at the VA Hospital in Little Rock. I was in medical school at the time and was able to visit him on several occasions. I only wish I had prayed with him at his bedside during those visits, and told him how much I loved him. I know he knew it, but regret it just the same

At his death his funeral was held at Morning Star Baptist Church, and I took time off from medical school to drive the one hundred miles from Little Rock to El Dorado to attend. Mom and I were the only Caucasians in the church, and they gave us a place of honor near the front. We were asked if we wanted to give a testimony concerning Brother Mose, and to this day I regret we politely refused. During the service, the choir sang Precious Lord and both Mom and I broke down and cried harder than any family member present.

I believe eternal life is received as a free gift of grace from the Lord Jesus, and no amount of good works will secure it. I also believe between the moment of our conversion until we meet Him face to face, we must live obedient to His command to love Him supremely and love others like He loves us. I am confident Brother Mose loved the Lord with all his heart, and experienced the way he loved two small children who were quite different in color and culture. He was the first person I saw who overcame his trials and tribulations by “living right in the sight of the Lord!” (John 16:33)

Dr. John

Wildcat Basketball

El Dorado Wildcats 1956-'57

El Dorado Wildcat Basketball Team
1956-’57

From my earliest remembrance I have loved all types of sports. My older brother Berry Lee (Bubba) was good at most of them, and he was my idol. He excelled at football and was a high school All-American at El Dorado High School. He was selected for a scholarship to play tackle the Razorbacks at the University of Arkansas from 1946 through 1948. He would have played all four years had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury his sophomore year.

Because he was eleven years older, he was a father-figure in many ways. He taught me to play football, basketball, tennis, ping-pong and bowling, and he was pretty good in all of them. My sport’s goals were to beat him in everything but football, and by the time I was a teenager I was able to able to do it. My first love in sports was football, and I would have tried out for the team in junior high school had I not been so skinny. I chose basketball for junior high and high school competition. I didn’t make the team as a ninth grader, so I played Boys Club basketball this year. I was leading scorer on our team in every game averaging fifteen points per game. By the tenth grade I made the Wildcat B team and again was the leading scorer.

I spent hours shooting basketballs from the perimeter outside the circle, and my favorite spot was from the left which is now a 3 point area. When the gym was open in the off-season I preferred practicing there, but usually I practiced on the playground at Hugh Goodwin Elementary School. During every practice period of a couple of hours I would shoot at least one hundred free throws. My strong point was shooting and not rebounding since I was not heavy enough nor strong enough to “mix it up’ on the inside.

By the twelfth grade I finally made the starting line-up for the Wildcats! Our coach was Pel Austin (1st row- far right) who was quite a colorful figure. Coach Austin was earlier a professional baseball player and played left fielder for the El Dorado Oilers, a Class C League professional team in the late 40’s and early 50’s. He was the best hitters for the Oilers and well-known for his home-run power. He was known as “Pelting Pel of Peach Orchard” because his home town was Peach Orchard, Missouri. I thought he was an excellent basketball coach and a good motivator of young men. He was stern in discipline but not profane in his language, which I especially appreciated. He was physically larger and stronger than all the players on the team, so no one would dare think of challenging him in any way.

Most of our team players were skinny like me, and I was one of the taller players at 6′ 2″ (No. 28). The stronger players and good rebounders were Richard McCuistion (No. 21) and James Norris (No. 29) who were also excellent football players for the Wildcat football team. By far our best player was Bill (Spider) Jones (No. 30) who had a twenty point scoring average for the season. As a small forward he had the ability of scoring from the inside despite his relatively small size (6′ 2″  and weighing 160 pounds). The players in our conference who were bigger and stronger couldn’t stop Spider, who easily made the All- State first team and earned him a full scholarship to play for Arkansas State University in Jonesboro.

The high school campus was located where the El Dorado branch of South Arkansas University now sits, and our practice gym was the on-campus gymnasium. It is still standing and has been classified as a state historical building. As an aside I was present in this gym at a game in the early 1950’s when the Harlem Globetrotters played a game against a locally organized team. The star Globetrotter was Reese “Goose” Tatum, whose home was El Dorado and was a very well-known national sport’s star. He was nicknamed the “Clown Prince of Basketball.” Some of his family members still live in El Dorado, and his sister became a surgical patient of mine forty years later

All of our home games were played in the Barton Junior High School gymnasium which would hold more fans than our practice gym. Most of our games were well attended but in those days even parents of the players were less likely to attend than now. I cannot remember my Pop and Mom attending even one home game, and I did not think it strange then. The 1950’s were long before the civil rights movement, and I never played against a team with a black American player. The black American high school in El Dorado then was Booker T. Washington High School, and the building is still used and named Washington Middle School. We never played against the Washington High Hornets but probably would have lost!

Our most memorable accomplishment my senior year was beating Little Rock Central High School on our home court. The Little Rock Tigers were almost invincible each year because it was the only high school in Little Rock. Their enrollment made it one of the largest high schools in the nation. As a comparison it would be like playing an all-star team from the twelve high schools in the city. We beat them by eight points that night and I was able to score twelve points in the game. We caught them on an especially bad night were emotionally pretty high since we had not beaten them in four years.

Some of our better players included Billy Ray McGaugh (No. 25) who was our second leading scorer; Tommy Murphree (No. 22) who went on to a successful coaching career at Ouachita Baptist University; Max “Buddy” Barron (No. 26) who attended West Point after graduation and had a career in the Army of teaching at West Point; and Tommy Stegall  in the photo standing to the right of Tommy Murphree).

After graduating from high school I attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville and thought I would try out for the Razorback basketball team as a walk-on. Glen Rose was the coach, and after one day of practice I realized those players were above my skill set. I decided it best to walk-off! That one year I had a growth spurt and gained 15 pounds in weight and 2 inches in height. When I went home for our spring break I ran into Coach Austin. When he saw my current size, he jokingly said, “Johnny, if you had been this big last year, we would have won the state championship!” Of course he was kidding, but I loved the compliment. Incidentally I was known as “Johnny” by my teammates.

Dr. John

“The Chief of Night Operations”

Charity Hospital New Orleans

Charity Hospital New Orleans

During my fourth and final year of surgical training at Charity Hospital in New Orleans I was fortunate to receive the one and only political appointment of my medical career. Because of my personal friendship with Dr. Charles Mary, the Hospital Director of Charity I was appointed as an Assistant Clinical Director for the hospital for the year 1968-1969. I served with two other physicians, Dr. John Buck and Dr. George Cook for the year. It was quite an honor because Charity Hospital was the largest hospital in the United States at the time, and there was a staff of approximately 250 resident physicians employed by the hospital.

The two medical schools in New Orleans, LSU Medical School and Tulane Medical School used Charity Hospital as their teaching hospital, and the hospital was evenly divided between the schools. There was tremendous competition between the services and each service thought they were the best. All three of the ACD’s (Assistant Clinical Directors) were on the LSU Service for the year. The simple explanation is because Dr. Mary had been an Internal Medicine resident on the LSU Service prior to his appointment as Director by Governor John McKeithen. I had gotten to know Dr. Mary as an internist since he had referred many surgical patients to me for three years, and we had a very good working relationship. The reason Charity Hospital had been so steeped in politics is because at the time the annual operating budget of the hospital was approximately thirty million dollars which was fully funded by the state of Louisiana. That was more than the total budget of some states in those years, and in today’s economy might be twice that much. Charity Hospital had been on the center stage of Louisiana politics for almost one hundred years, and every governor had some agenda regarding the hospital.

The responsibilities of the ACD were not complicated but required the ability to get along with all (most) of the doctors on staff, and the skill to settle disputes. LSU and Tulane doctors were constantly squabbling over which patients should be assigned to their service. There were some patients whom each wanted and some that neither wanted and there was a daily turf war which had to be settled. The Hospital Director assigned those battles to his ACD’s. He was busy with budget meetings, high level administrative duties and meeting with all the political big-wigs of Louisiana.

Every night the ACD was the acting Director of the hospital, and every administrative decision was made by him alone. Most decisions were routine but occasionally a decision would have far-reaching implications. Every third night I was on-call as ACD, and frequently the responsibility coincided with my duties as the 4th years surgeon on-call. This was before the days of cellular phones, but we used a beeper system which was considered high-tech then. When I had a call from the hospital operator, my beeper would sound, and I would then call the operator to receive my call. It sounds very antiquated with our current technology, but it was a wonderful system allowing us to take call from home and also have the freedom to go to a restaurant or to a movie. The first time Cathy and I attended a movie with my new beeper and it went off, it caused great alarm to most people in the theater who had never heard such a sound!

As ACD, I frequently got phone calls from politicians and state officials who wanted some political favor from the hospital. I once received a call from Governor McKeithen who wanted one of his friends with no medical insurance admitted to the Doctor’s Infirmary. The Doctor’s Infirmary was in a special section of the hospital and was used primarily to provide medical care for the staff and occasionally for outsiders. Every room was a private room and the care provided was as good if not better than any hospital in New Orleans; plus with the unique added benefit– it was free! Every patient had their own nurse and the only doctors allowed to treat patients in the Infirmary were the 4th and 5th year residents along with the full-time staff physicians.

One of the most interesting calls I received all year was from a newspaper reporter in Paris, France. In his deep French accent he asked if I could give him any information on a then well-known opera singer who reportedly was a patient in Charity Hospital. I took the caller’s name and number, and said I would call when I could provide the needed information. I discovered after lengthy research, that indeed the opera singer was a patient on the Psychiatry Service under the name “John Doe.” He had been drinking large amounts of alcohol in numerous bars in the French Quarters, and had been found lying unconscious on Bourbon Street. For whatever reason he had no identification papers, so was brought to Charity Hospital and admitted to a general ward under the John Doe name. When he awakened several days later, he did not know who he was nor any details of his life and was transferred to the Psych. unit for rehabilitation. His memory very slowly returned, and by the time I received the call from the Paris reporter, he was beginning to piece his life together. After I gave my report to the Paris newspaper, the story made international news, because the singer was so well-known in the opera world. I began receiving other calls for similar information concerning him.

Cathy’s Mom, Virginia Young who lived in Fort Lauderdale, called us a few days later and said I was quoted in the Miami Herald about the “world-famous opera singer.” She sent me a copy of the article which headlined “Opera Singer Found in New Orleans.” The article identified me as Dr. John Moore, the Chief of Night Operations at Charity Hospital. Mom Young teased me for a long time afterward, and would ask if I only operated “at night.” I would tell her I did work during the day, but did my best operating at night so I was given the title “Director.”

Since I lean more toward bluegrass music than opera, I don’t remember the singer’s name, but do remember he was finally released from Charity to return home and presumably continue his career. I never went to the Psych. Unit to meet him, but probably should have. I have to admit I enjoyed my year in Louisiana politics, but was glad to finally relinquish those duties and concentrate solely on patient care. Later whenever she remembered the opera singer article, Mom would call me “the night operator chief.”

Dr. John