When Philadelphia Negroes went on a rioting, looting rampage that ended only last week, there was only one Negro leader who could conceivably have stopped them. He is Cecil Moore, 49, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the N.A.A.C.P., the city's busiest Negro criminal lawyer, and a brilliant but frightfully demagogic man.
"Cecil has a Jesus Christ complex," said a critic recently. "He thinks he is the self-appointed savior of the Negro in Philadelphia." Retorted Moore: "I'm not self-appointed. I was elected." A committee of 16 Negro leaders last year called him "a man bereft of reason." Two of the 16 were Judge Raymond Pace Alexander, the man who had sponsored Moore for admittance into the Philadelphia Bar Association, and Alexander's wife Sadie, who is chairman of the city's commission on human relations. No sooner had they spoken when Moore got up a sign reading: 15 UNCLE TOMS AND AN AUNT DINAH DON'T SPEAK FOR THE N.A.A.C.P.
"Get." Six months after his 1962 election to the Philadelphia N.A.A.C.P. chapter presidency, Moore broke into print with some remarkable outbursts against Jewish leaders in the civil rights field. He knew of none, he said, who was not "a goddam phony." Later he claimed that he had been misquoted, said that he had really been castigating the whole lot of "socalled Northern white liberals," who are "all a bunch of phonies. I accuse anybody who exploits another group as anti-American. This includes Negroes, Catholics, Jews, newspapers, everybody."
Moore is proud of being "ruthless" when it comes to protecting his dominion. He once got a local CORE group to cancel a demonstration by threatening to send a gang of girls through a CORE picket line. "You won't look very good fighting girls," he warned. And when a Harlem envoy came to Philadelphia to organize a rent strike, Moore gave the man 24 hours to get out of town. The man got. It was Moore who instituted the court battle to stop the city's famed New Year's Day Mummers Parade participants from wearing their traditional blackface. Moore won his point, but the Mummers got the last laugh by parading in pink, red, green, orange and purple faces.
On the Corner. What makes Cecil run? Not money, for despite his huge law practice he is forever broke, spending thousands of dollars to represent indigent Negroes. Personal ambition? Perhaps. Twice he has run for Congress, and twice he has been defeated, but he might try again. Yet what obviously drives him is an inner anger combined with the sharp joy of combat.
Moore comes from West Virginia, graduated from Bluefield State College there, and got his law degree at Temple University in 1953. He fought with the Marines in the Pacific in World War II, turned down a battlefield commission because "second lieutenants don't live long in the Marines." His career as an attorney is flecked with contention. He has been rebuked by judges, fined for contempt of court; both the city civil service commission and the state liquor control board have asked that he be barred from practicing before them.