Godfrey Moore, 61, president of Baltimore Teachers Union

February 04, 2000|By Jacques Kelly | Jacques Kelly,SUN STAFF

Godfrey Moore, a teachers union president who led a monthlong strike in 1974, died Saturday of cardiac arrest at University of Maryland Medical Center. He was 61 and lived in Columbia.

As president of the Baltimore Teachers Union, one of two competing unions that represented the city's 8,600 teachers, he directed the most recent teachers strike in Baltimore.

The strike was called by the BTU's rival union, the Public School Teachers Association, and Mr. Moore was reluctant at first to support it.

But at a highly charged meeting at the Poly-Western schools auditorium, BTU members voted to support the walkout.

"Godfrey never looked back after that," said Paul L. Vance, then deputy superintendent of city schools and later superintendent of Montgomery County schools.

"The strike would have collapsed the first day had it not been for the BTU. But it was part of Godfrey's charm that he stayed in touch with us [the administration]."

Mr. Moore was arrested for trespassing while walking a picket line, and he arranged to post bail for those arrested from both unions.

Frank Kober, BTU vice president during the strike, was arrested on consecutive days with Mr. Moore.

"The second day, we came before the same judge," said Dr. Kober, now a professor and chairman of the education department at Coppin State College. "He looked at us and said, `Didn't I see you here yesterday?' "

"Godfrey said, `Yes, you did, and I'll keep getting arrested until hell freezes over if it will improve education in this city.' I'm thinking, `Lord, I don't want another minute in jail. Shut up, Godfrey.' Fortunately, he let us go."

Mr. Moore resigned from the local union presidency in November 1974 and began teaching elementary school, reading and special education in the Montgomery County schools. His last assignment was Judith A. Resnik Elementary School in Gaithersburg.

Born in Winnsboro, S.C., he came to Baltimore in 1941 and enrolled at Carver High School, where he graduated at the top of his class, ran track and played football. He won a scholarship to Winston-Salem Teachers College, where he graduated with honors. He later earned a master's degree from Loyola College.

He was named an All-American in track at Winston-Salem in 1959, 1960 and 1962, and was a National Athletic Intercollegiate Association long-jump record holder. He also won the long lump at the Penn Relays and participated in the 1964 Olympic trials.

He maintained his interest in track and field and in 1994 founded the nonprofit Institute for Scholar Athletes to help track and field athletes get college scholarships.

Dr. Vance said Mr. Moore recruited fellow track and field athletes to act as mentors to high school track athletes in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

"It was pure Godfrey," Dr. Vance said. "He was always willing to help someone."

In the early 1960s Mr. Moore began teaching in the Baltimore County schools at Woodmoor. He then joined the city system and soon became active in the Baltimore Teachers Union as field representative and executive secretary. In 1972 he ran for union presidency on a reform ticket.

In 1961 he married Ann Lisette Smith, principal of Sarah M. Roach Elementary School in Irvington. She survives him.

A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. tomorrow at St. John the Evangelist Roman Catholic Church, Wilde Lake Center, Columbia.

He is also survived by a son, Channing Moore of Baltimore; a daughter, Andrea Moore-Burkert of Fells Point; two brothers, Allen Moore of Forestville and Herman Moore of Columbia; two sisters, Dorothy Glenn of Catonsville and Willie Woodard of Baltimore; and two grandchildren.

Sun staff writer Mike Bowler contributed to this obituary.

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