Many more diversity projects preceded Life in a Jar. The Bill Moore project brought a motto of “walk on” to the classroom, as five students (David Foster, Trish Endicott, Cody Carey, Casey Sifers, and Randi Wiles) produced a drama performance on the civil rights march of postman Bill Moore. He went on a one-man march through the South with letters in his postal bag for the Governors of Alabama and Mississippi. Bill identified with Don Quixote and believed he could knock down the windmills of prejudice, even by himself. Bill Moore was a martyr in the Civil Rights movement, and the students told his story along with the help of his wife, Mary Moore Birchard, and daughter, Lyn Munn. The students even saved money and traveled to Alabama with me over spring break of 1996.
In Alabama, they researched, found people who still remembered Bill’s walk, interviewed the waitress who served Bill his last meal and drove by the house of the man who had shot Bill. They had telephoned this man several weeks before, and the call clearly upset him a great deal. The students also insisted on going to the spot in the country where Bill was killed, on a lonely stretch of highway in rural Alabama. The evening sun was setting and the scene was tranquil and beautiful. As the students went through their lines, David came to a direct quote from Bill, and Trish started crying. The students hugged each other and seemed to bond in a special way; they seemed to put forty years of this story to rest. Even Bill’s wife Mary agreed when she was told of their actions. Mary loaned the students Bill’s postal bag he carried on the march to use in their drama.
Mary Moore Birchard fell in love with the students and Uniontown. Lyn, her daughter, would come to the wedding of David a number of years later. Mary and her husband Court would visit the school also and speak to the classes on the courage and power of one man.
They had a special clay on their farm in northern Pennsylvania. From this clay they made pretty stone designs, including one for myself and the five students involved in the project on Bill Moore. This small stone sign said, “Walk on, Norm Conard, Walk on.” I look at this sign above my desk quite often, and looked more often than usual during the early days of the Irena Sendler Project.
Bill Moore and Irena Sendler have a common thread, as does Ken Reinhardt and Elizabeth Eckford and my students. They are all not afraid to battle the windmills of indifference and bias in the world, knowing the power of one to succeed. These were the kind of history projects the students were completing. There have been many more.
Mary Moore passed away in November of 2008. Her daughter, Lyn, sent us the following dedication for a memorial to Bill.
William L. Moore was a Binghamton native. After honorable service as a Marine, Bill graduated from Harpur College (SUNY). He battled severe depression and wrote The Mind in Chains about his struggle with mental illness. His compassion led him to create a magazine to provide helpful articles and locations of support groups and half-way houses. SEARCH – which stood for Service, Education, Action, Responsibility, Character, and Health – was part of a national movement to improve services and remove the stigma of being a “former mental patient.” His concern for humanity and the environment led him to make several one-person protests in Binghamton. He was employed by the Binghamton Post Office but wanted to be where he could be more involved protesting inequality so he took a long-term assignment in Baltimore, MD. While there he undertook a one-person civil rights march from Chattanooga, TN to Jackson, MS in 1963, during his vacation. His murder in Alabama on April 23, 1963 is commemorated on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery, AL.