Joe DeFilippo felt so moved reading about slain Baltimore Civil Rights worker William Lewis Moore that he wrote a song about the postal worker who was killed 50 years ago in Alabama.
Moore, 35, was killed on April 23, 1963, while on a one-man Civil Rights demonstration where he set out to walk from Chattanooga, Tenn., to Jackson, Miss., to hand deliver a letter to the governor of Mississippi asking him to reverse his stance on segregation.
A Baltimore postal worker, Moore wore a pro-integration sandwich-board sign as he walked along highways through the South. Friends and relatives warned him that he was putting his life at risk, and their dire predictions came true when he was shot to death just after he crossed into Alabama.
The murder went unsolved when a grand jury did not indict the suspect Alabama authorities believed had pulled the trigger. The FBI reopened Moore’s cold case in 2009 and the Sun story explored agents' new findings as well as the toll his death has taken on Moore's remaining family members.
DeFilippo, 58, who lives in Owings Mills, said he hoped writing "400 miles" would further help "getting the public familiar with the heroism and commitment of William Moore, and those like him."
DeFilippo said he has written hundreds of songs including history and multi-cultural pieces for Baltimore County Schools. The RJ Phillips Band, a group of Baltimore-area musicians including DeFilippo, recorded the song at the Bratt Recording Studio in Woodlawn and put it on YouTube.
"Some say he was stubborn, some said he was brave" goes an excerpt. "On April 23, a sacrifice was made. Three children lost their father. Mary lost her man. As his blood stained the Alabama land."
Moore left behind his wife, Mary, and three step-children including Marilyn Munn of Arizona. Munn, who has heard the song, said she was impressed by the tribute. Over the years, a few songs have been written about Moore including "Ballad for Bill Moore," by Don West, and tributes by folk singers Phil Ochs and Pete Seeger.
"I was so moved by your article that I was inspired to pay tribute to Mr. Moore for his heroism and courage during the turmoil of the Civil Rights era," DeFilippo said. "I felt that the song was the best way I could recognize his deeds."
The Sun story on Moore also helped the FBI locate Moore's stepchildren, and Munn said agents have recently indicated that they plan to share the findings of their recent cold case investigation with her sometime next month.
The case was re-opened and closed with the agency arriving at the same suspect arrested decades ago. Federal officials say they are unable to prosecute the case because that man died in 1998.