×

The father of Highland High School athletics went on to enjoy even more success as an Asheville coach

By Richard Walker

When Clarence L. Moore was inducted into the N.C. High School Athletic Association in 2003, he was listed as being from Asheville.

Clarence Moore just before his retirement from teaching in 1973.

And while Moore spent most of his life in that city, his coaching career began in Gastonia at old Highland High School.

Moore got the Rams’ athletic program up and running before leaving to become an iconic figure in Asheville as a high school coach, local professional baseball coach and local recreation director.

A 1928 Shaw University graduate where he was the baseball team captain, Moore came to Highland and to start the school’s football, basketball and baseball programs.

Moore led all three sport teams to titles, highlighted by a 1930 “Carolinas championship” in baseball after beating Cumming Street School of Spartanburg, S.C., 8-2 in an unofficial title game since neither state had a governing body at that time. The 1931 and 1934 Rams football teams were state runner-up finishers for the N.C. High School Athletic Conference.

Moore also is credited with starting what became a Thanksgiving tradition in the Gastonia African-American community when the “Turkey Day Football Classic” began in 1931. Games were played between Highland and opponents like Raleigh Washington High, Mather Academy, S.C., Lincolnton Newbold, West Charlotte and Spartanburg Carver in the 1930s and 1940s.

Among the top athletes Moore coached at Highland were Spencer Alexander, Fred Worthy, Adam Williams and Ralph Gingles, Jr.

The first of Moore’s two stints as a coach at Asheville’s Stephens-Lee High School began in 1935.

His first Bears football team finished as NCHSAC runner-up.

Five years later, he left high school coaching to become owner-manager-player for the Asheville Blues of the Negro Southern Baseball League. The Blues’ rivals included the Atlanta Black Crackers, the Chattanooga Choo Choos, the Knoxville Giants, the Jacksonville Red Cups, the Mobile Bears and the New Orleans Creoles.

The 1946 Asheville Blues Negro League Baseball team with Gastonia’s Fred Worthy and Spencer Alexander the last two players on the right of the front row.

Gastonia’s Alexander and Worthy were among those who played for Moore’s teams that won a 1945 second half title and 1946 and 1947 league championships. Those Blues’ teams produced future major leaguer Jim Pendleton and played against future major leaguers like Roy Campanella, Sam Jones, Sam Jethroe and Luke Easter in addition to Negro League superstar Josh Gibson. Moore was a second baseman.

For his work with pro baseball, Moore was honored by the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1972 for outstanding contributions.

Moore would return to high school coaching and teaching at Warrenton Hawkins High in the 1948-49 school year before returning to Stephens-Lee in 1949.

Back in Asheville, he guided the Bears to a 1957 football state title, 1962 basketball state title and 1958 baseball state runner-up finish.

Arguably his greatest athlete was three-sport prep star Henry Logan, who in 1964 became the first African-American to play in a Southern collegiate conference when he integrated the Carolinas Conference as a basketball player at Western Carolina.

A 1962 Asheville Citizen-Times photo showing coach Clarence Moore and three of his stars of the basketball state championship team, including future pioneer and professional Henry Logan.

Logan still holds single game (60), single season (1049) and career (3290) scoring records at WCU and was a four-time all-league selection who led the country in scoring in the 1967-68 season with a 36.2 points per game average. He also helped the United States win a gold medal in the 1967 Pan-American Games. (Logan would go on to play two seasons in the ABA and playing for the 1969 Oakland Oaks league championship team before a knee injury ended his career.)

Moore retired as a coach after the 1964-65 school year when Stephens-Lee was closed and he became athletic director at Asheville’s South French Broad High School until 1973.

Upon his retirement from teaching in 1973, N.C. governor Jim Holshouser proclaimed July 21, 1973 as “Clarence Moore Day” in the state.

Moore and his wife Sadie Douglas Moore had two children who both became educators. Clarence Moore, Jr., taught in Dayton, Ohio and Robert Moore became a high school and college coach; Robert Moore became the first African-American state championship-winning coach in N.C. High School Athletic Association history in 1969 at Winston-Salem Atkins and later coached college basketball at Virginia Union University and Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte.

Local NCHSAA Hall of Fame members:
(began with annual inductions in 1988)
1992 — Everette “Shu” Carlton (Gastonia)
1997 — Chuck Clements (Gastonia)
1998 — Gerald “Pearlie” Allen (Shelby)
2000 — Don Patrick (Newton-Conover – Shelby HS graduate)
2002 — William C. Friday (Chapel Hill – Dallas HS graduate)
2003 — Clarence Moore (Asheville – former Highland HS coach)
2004 — Ed Peeler (Shelby)
2006 — Don Saine (Gastonia)
2012 — Larry Rhodes (Gastonia), Jim Taylor (Shelby)
2015 — Suzanne Grayson (Shelby)
2017 — Jim Biggerstaff (Belmont), Bob McRae (Kings Mountain)