FBI struggled to find relatives in Moore civil rights cold case

As The Baltimore Sun set out to look back on the murder of civil rights activist William Lewis Moore 50 years later, the first step was to find his relatives. It wasn't easy.

Records showed none located in Baltimore, where the postal worker had lived before his death. Moore had no biological children. His widow died a few years ago, according to an obituary. As it would turn out, even the FBI had hit a wall in trying to track down relatives.

But his obituary also listed the names of three stepchildren. Moore was killed on April 21, 1963, while marching to Jackson, Miss., to protest segregation.

One of his stepchildren had died recently, records showed. But two remained. Through use of an address database, Moore's youngest stepdaughter was found in southeastern New York. Reached by phone, she acknowledged that she was his daughter but declined to be interviewed. Asked whether her sister might be interested, she said she would inquire and took down a reporter's email address.

Marilyn Munn responded in an email. She was Moore's older stepdaughter, and she was willing to be interviewed about her father's activism, his murder and the investigation, which resulted in an arrest but no conviction.

The Sun also sought to review investigatory files related to Moore's death.

A routine Internet search produced a surprising revelation: The FBI had reopened Moore's case in 2009 as part of a cold-case initiative to investigate more than 100 unsolved killings from the civil rights era.

Further digging showed that the agency had wrapped up its investigation in March and had written a report of its findings in a letter for Moore's next of kin. Munn said she had never talked to the FBI and that she had no idea that such a report was available.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, The Sun asked the Justice Department for the letter. It came back weeks later and became the basis of The Sun's retrospective of Moore's murder. The Sun also provided Munn with a copy of the letter — the first time she had seen the report.



Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad