“Live Right in the Sight of the Lord”

 

Brother Mose picture

Brother Mose Graham

I previously wrote a story about Mose Graham (Brother Mose) entitled Ollie and the Meat Cleaver in which I described him as a fun-loving man who worked for our family when I was a young boy. Brother Mose had quite an impact on me during those years and instilled in me some of the values in life by which I try to live.

My sister Marilyn and I knew Brother Mose better than anyone in our family and probably better than most of his friends. The simple reason is because we spent so much time with him, listening to his stories, his songs, watching him dance little jigs in fun and learning his philosophy of life. After Marilyn married George Berry in 1957, George got to know Brother Mose like all of the family, and today the 3 of us are the only family members who remember Brother Mose well enough to enjoy sharing those remembrances.

One of the stories I heard more than once from Brother Mose concerned his experience regarding a boxing match he had with the star of a travelling boxing troupe. In the depression years of the 1930’s up to World War II, there were frequent travelling shows across middle America which were efforts by the visitors to earn some money from locals and provide different forms of entertainment. One such troupe that came to El Dorado was a boxing team headed up by their star boxer named “Battlin Red.” Any local who was brave enough to pay $1 and could stay in the ring with “Red” for 1 round without getting knocked down would earn $5 for his bravery. Mose was a young man in his 20’s 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 5 dollars. Mose said quite a few other men that day 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 $10 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 a capella vocal repertoire was more extensive. His favorite song which he constantly either sang or hummed was “Precious Lord,” and Marilyn and I quickly learned all the verses Brother Mose knew. Other songs which we remember and can still sing today included, “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,” which was also Sister Bobbie’s favorite song. Sister Bobbie also worked for our family during those years.

A belief that 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 that he knew “another name” for God. When we asked him 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, “I didn’t know that!”

The only bad personal habit we saw in Brother Mose was he loved to smoke “ceegareets,” as he always pronounced them. When I acquired the taste for cigarettes at the tender age of 10 years along with a neighbor friend, John Lee Anthony; we would frequently “bum” a smoke from Brother Mose. He usually warned us not to let “Dr. Mo'” know about our little secret, because he would be in a heap o’ trouble.

Brother Mose worked for our family during the period of racial segregation in America. Nation-wide and locally there were shameful practices against Black Americans such as separate schools, separate waiting rooms in Doctor’s offices, separate drinking fountains and separate public rest rooms. Brother Mose and all Blacks Americans could not eat in our local “whites only” restaurants, nor attend movies in the 2 main theaters, the Rialto and the Majestic. The only theater in which Blacks were allowed was the Ritz Theater, and they had to sit in the balcony. Neither Brother Mose nor Sister Bobbie were allowed to eat their lunch in our breakfast room where we had the majority of our meals. I didn’t know about that restriction until I was about 6 or 7 years old, but when Marilyn and  I were at home alone with them, we tried very hard to get them to join us for a meal at our table. They simply would not do it, I suppose because segregation was so ingrained in them. It makes me terribly sad to remember this, but if either one 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 from their marriage, but helped raise several small children (a niece and a nephew) to adult-hood and considered them their own. I don’t believe they remained 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 in life was “Live right in the sight of the Lord,” and I believe he did just that. He was kind, loving, generous, forgiving and without any guile. As I think back on the life he lived and the circumstances of life he endured, I consider him to be one of the most outstanding men I have known.

When he was in his late 60’s, he developed lung cancer, I’m sure from the many “ceegareets” he smoked over a lifetime. He received very good end of life medical care from 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 for him at his bedside during those visits, and told him how much I loved him. I believe he knew it, but regret I never spoke the words to him.

At his death, his funeral was held at Morning Star Baptist Church, and I took time off from medical school to drive the 100 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 both 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 lost our composure. I believe we cried harder than any family members present.

I now know and understand 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 that between the moment of our conversion of faith until we meet Him face to face, we must live obediently to His command of loving Him supremely and loving others like He loves us. I believe Brother Mose loved the Lord with all his heart, and I experienced the way he loved 2 small children who were quite different from him in color and culture. He was the first person I saw overcoming his trials and tribulations by “living right in the sight of the Lord!” (John 16:33)

Dr. John

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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 because my older brother Berry Lee (Bubba) was good at most of them, and he was my idol. He excelled at football to the extent he was a high school All American tackle at El Dorado High School and played tackle for the Razorbacks at the University of Arkansas from 1946 through 1948. He had a full football scholarship and would have played all 4 years had he not suffered a career-ending knee injury his sophomore year. Because he was 11 years older, in many ways he was a father-figure. He taught me to play football, basketball, tennis, ping-pong and bowling, and in all of which he was very good. My sport’s goals were to beat him in everything but football, and by the time I was a teenager, I was able to do that. 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; so I chose basketball for junior high and high school competition. I didn’t make the team as a 9th grader, so I determined to do well in Boys Club basketball and was high point man in every game averaging 15 points per game. By the 10th grade I finally 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 goal at Hugh Goodwin Elementary School. In one practice period of a couple of hours, I would shoot at least 100 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.

In the 12th 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 was the left fielder of the El Dorado Oilers, a Class C League professional team in the 1940’s and 50’s. He was one of the best hitters for the Oilers and well-known for his home-run power. 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 good football players for the Wildcat football team. By far our best player was Bill (Spider) Jones (No. 30) who had a 20 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” weighing about 160 pounds). The teams in our conference who were bigger and stronger couldn’t stop Spider, who easily made All State 1st team and earned 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 sits, and our practice gym was the gymnasium on campus. It is still there, and I believe has been classified as a state historical building. As a side note, I was present at the game in the early 1950’s when the Harlem Globetrotters played in that gym against a locally organized team. The star Globetrotter was Reese “Goose” Tatum who was from El Dorado and very well-known as a national sport’s star. He was known as the “Clown Prince of Basketball.” Some of his family still reside in El Dorado, and his sister was a surgical patient of mine years later

All of our home games were played in the Barton Junior High School gymnasium which would hold more fans than the high school 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 parents attending even one home game, and I did not think anything about it. The 1950’s was long before racial integration, and I never played against a team in the state with an African-American player. The African-American high school in El Dorado was Booker T. Washington High School where the current school stands. We never played against their team (the Hornets), but probably would have lost!

Our most memorable accomplishment the year I started was beating Little Rock Central High School on our home court. The Tigers were almost invincible because that was the only high school in Little Rock at the time and their enrollment made it one of the largest high schools in the nation. As a comparison today, it would be like playing an all-star team from the 7 or 8 high schools in the city. We beat them by 8 points and I was able to score 12 points in that game. We caught them on an especially bad night, and we were emotionally pretty high since we had not beaten them in 3 or 4 years.

Some of our better players included Billy Ray McGaugh (No. 25) who was our 2nd 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 (standing in the photo to the right of Tommy Murphree).

After graduating from high school I went to 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 I was way over my head in skill set, so I walked-off! That 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 size, he jokingly said, “Johnny, if you had been this size last year, we would have won the state championship!” Of course he was kidding, but I loved the compliment. By the way, 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 4th 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 2 other physicians, Dr. John Buck and Dr. George Cook that 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 that 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 3 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 30 million dollars, fully funded by the state of Louisiana! That was more than the total budget of some states in those years. Charity Hospital had been on the center stage of Louisiana politics for almost 100 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