Delivering the message of racial justice to the governor’s mailbox
Letter carrier William Moore holds a protest sign in Binghampton, N.Y., in this 1963 file photo. Moore was shot dead on April 23, 1963, along a lonely highway in Etowah County, Ala., while on a one-man crusade to protest segregation. | AP

John “Cementhead” Dick is a retired postal worker and member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3126, Royal Oak, Mich. For many years, he has authored “Dicktation” columns related to his experiences on the job. Earlier installments can be read here.

“William Moore you were a mailman,

You never missed a day

You always got your letter through,

Nobody blocked your way.”

1963 Mississippi. We have all heard the stories about the blatant segregation of the South, and the heroic tales of those who condemned it and fought against that evil. With this year marking the 60th anniversary of that year of strife and struggle, we have revisited the names of many of those brave souls who faced the ultimate sacrifice for marching and speaking the truth about racial inequality.

Until recently, I never knew the story of this one Letter Carrier from Baltimore who had a special letter he attempted to deliver. His story is one of the most extraordinary tales from that year.

“One day you had a message,

You felt you had to shout

It wasn’t an ordinary message,

Took you beyond your route.”

William Moore was more than your average Letter Carrier. As well as making his appointed rounds in Baltimore, he was also an impassioned civil rights activist. Raised in Mississippi, his roots were in the South. He was a Marine veteran and proud to continue to serve his country in his Letter Carrier uniform. He was a member of the Baltimore chapter of CORE, Congress of Racial Equality. He was 35 and white.

His mission on April 20, 1963, was to walk 400 miles, by himself, from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss. His goal was to walk up and knock on Gov. Ross Barnett’s door and deliver the most important letter he had ever delivered in his entire life—a hand-typed letter imploring the governor to push for racial integration.

He began his walk on Highway 11, pushing his postal handcart. He wore sandwich board signs reading “End Segregation in America” and “Eat at Joe’s—Black and White.” Inside his handcart were dozens of copies of the letter he intended to deliver to the governor. He would pass them out along the way to anyone interested.

He had a “Wanted” poster plastered on the side of his postal handcart with a picture of Jesus. Many a passerby were kind to him, but many threatened his life as he walked the highway.

“Your message did get through I know,

Your message did get through

For they can kill a man for sure,

But your message did get through.”

Mailman William Moore made the first 100 miles of his 400-mile trek with that letter in hand. On April 23, 2023, his body was discovered alongside Highway 11, in Attalla, Ala., with two bullets in his head. The gun was traced back to local KKK member Floyd Simpson, but he was never charged with the murder.

On the 45th anniversary of Mailman Moore’s death, another attempt was made to deliver the letter to the governor’s mansion. In 2008, activist Ellen Johnson, along with other marchers, walked from the spot of Moore’s death 300 miles to the door of Gov. Haley Barbour. They knocked, letter in hand. He would not take time to accept the letter.

William Moore never completed his own march to Mississippi, but his values have been delivered to more zip codes across this country than he could have ever imagined.

Walk on, Bill Moore, walk on.

(Quoted lyrics from Pete Seger-William Moore, The Mailman)


John Dick
John Dick

Award winning writer John "Cementhead" Dick is a retired letter carrier and proud member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3126, Royal Oak, Mich.