Eric Moore (second from left), NC State's first African-American Student Senate president, with Chancellor John T. Calwell (second from right) and fellow student leaders at the Memorial Belltower in 1969.

A Leader in His Time

February 24, 2014

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When student leaders urged Eric Moore to run for president of the Student Senate in the spring of 1969, Moore was initially reluctant to take what he considered to be a big leap: entering a race to become NC State’s first African-American student government leader.

Moore, a Durham, N.C., native and Hillside High graduate, came to NC State as an engineering student but eventually graduated in speech communications in December 1970. He went to graduate school at Ohio University and eventually spent more than two decades as a communications instructor at Fayetteville State.

He reflected on his time at NC State in a videotaped interview with the NCSU Libraries Student Leadership Initiative, discussing his role in getting students more involved with administrative decisions, the push to get NC State to offer its first African-American studies classes and other accomplishments during a time of cultural expansion on campus.

When Moore decided to run for Student Senate president, he was a disc jockey at student radio station WKNC, right next door to the office of the Technician student newspaper. Moore discussed his candidacy with Technician editor George Patton, and Patton offered to do Moore a favor.

“A decision was made that my picture would not appear [in Technician] before the election was over, because that might have an impact on whether I might get elected or not,” Moore recalls. “Signs went out: ‘Eric Moore!’ Fortunately, that didn’t sound much like an African-American name.”

Of course, little could have hurt Moore’s candidacy because he was running unopposed in the school’s old two-party election process. At the time, student government was changing its constitution, so Moore was the first NC State student to be elected president of the Student Senate, a position comparable to vice president of the student body.

It was an exciting time for Moore, an active student who played bassoon in the concert band and saxophone in the marching band and was involved in the Society of Afro-American Culture. He also spent time and took classes at St. Augustine’s University and Shaw University, Raleigh’s two historically black colleges. In fact, Moore met his wife at Shaw because she had the competing time slot at her school’s radio station.

Moore was active in the cultural movements of his day, but he never considered himself an activist, and he even subverted a plot to sneak the first African-American candidate for homecoming queen into the annual homecoming parade. Plotters in the SAAC made elaborate plans to sneak her into the parade lineup at a strategically chosen intersection.

Instead, Moore just asked some administrators if she could be in the parade and got a simple yes, with no clandestine plots needed.

“It wasn’t an exclusionary thing but it was almost a case of … we never really thought about this,” Moore says. “[The push for student power] was more just for them to listen to us. We might have something we could contribute to the situation. … There was a constant push to listen to the students.”

During his tenure, Moore developed a good relationship with Alabama-born Chancellor John Caldwell. They hit it off so well that Caldwell helped Moore get into graduate school at Ohio University.

“That was something he would do for people he cared for, and I’ve always appreciated that, because there were strategic folk on campus who would look beyond race and just basically dealt with you as a person, and I’ve always enjoyed that about State,” Moore says.

As Black History Month draws to a close, learn more about NC State’s own fascinating African-American history at the Historical State website.