A highway for Mal

Published 1:15 am Tuesday, November 17, 2015

UA Associate Athletic Director Ronny Robertson, James ‘Goat’ Hollis, Frank Moore, Heather Moore Cook, Paul Bryant Jr., and  John Williams.

UA Associate Athletic Director Ronny Robertson, James ‘Goat’ Hollis, Frank Moore, Heather Moore Cook, Paul Bryant Jr., and John Williams.

A crowd of family, friends and former co-workers gathered at Dozier Baptist Church Sunday afternoon to tell stories about a consummate storyteller, and to celebrate the naming of Highway 29 through Crenshaw County to Andalusia having been christened the Mal Moore Memorial Highway.

All of them agreed: No matter where he went or how successful he became, he never forgot his South Alabama roots.

Moore, the longtime athletic director at the University of Alabama, who also played and coached there, died in 2013

UA associate athletics director Ronny Robertson, who worked closely with Moore for eight years, said he always told people about Dozier.

“Every December, we flew to New York City for the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame induction at the Waldorf Astoria,” Robertson said. “He was always so excited we were going.

“We were walking through the lobby, and he looked over at me and said, ‘This is a long way from Dozier,’ ” Robertson recalled.

“He loved to tell stories, and people would always ask him where he was from. He’d explain it was a little town in South Alabama, Dozier.

“But when we were in New York, and people asked him, he would say, ‘I’m from a little town in South Alabama, Do-zier,’ ” (with a French accent).

“Another one he loved to tell was that the ag teacher at Dozier High School told people how kudzu was imported from Japan to stop erosion. People around here watered it so it would grow faster,” he said.

Cook leads an Irish toast to her father before friends and family members release balloons.

Cook leads an Irish toast to her father before friends and family members release balloons.

“Coach Bryant will always be the best football coach, but Mal will always be the greatest athletic director,” Robertson said. “Late nights when we were coming home from all over the state or nation, he would always talk about Dozier, Crenshaw County, and the Mores. He lived his life on values that reflected where he was from.

“There is nothing more fitting, and no tribute he would cherish more than this one.”

Moore’s daughter, Heather Moore Cook, echoed the sentiment.

“I think without a doubt, the reason my father was able to accomplish so much was because of his roots and his family. He would always say y’all were the salt of the Earth and and that you know what’s important in life,” she said. “And y’all were always with him, winning or losing.”

Cook recounted a story of how her grandparents deposited her father and his two suitcases on the sidewalk at the UA athletic dorm, gave him a hug, and went home.

Heather Moore Cook

Heather Moore Cook

“Daddy had never really been out of Dozier,” she said. “He said he had six different roommates his freshman year.

“Daddy even wanted to quit and come home,” she said. “Daddy Moore, after a long silence, said, ‘I think you can do it.’ ”

Cook said many people have forgotten that her dad was a successful coach before he became athletic director.

She said he once turned down the head coaching job at Fresno State when Coach Bryant discouraged him from going west.

“Coach Bryant told him, Those aren’t your kind of people, Mal.’

“Daddy always wanted to be the head coach at Alabama,” she said. “But Coach Bryant told him there were better things in store for him. And he was right.”

Coach Bryant’s son, Paul Bryant Jr., was among those in Dozier to play tribute to Moore Sunday.

Moore’s fundraising skills were legendary, and he successfully raised the money to updgrade facilities at Alabama.

“All of that money Daddy raised for the facilities, he did that when Alabama was down,” she said. “And look where we are now.”

Cook also talked about all her father did to help the greater community. He helped raise money for

Caring Days, a Tuscaloosa adult day care facility.

He also agreed to host the celebrity golf tournament for the Boys and Girls Clubs of West Alabama.

“The told me a lot of people who agreed to that would just show up at the tournament,” Cook said. “But they said Coach Moore worked. He made sure the foursomes were full and the sponsorships were sold.”

Frank Moore

Frank Moore

The first year he worked with the tournament, it raised $30,000. The last year, it had grown to $192,000.

“Daddy was 53 years old when walked away from his coaching career,” Cooks said. “At the time, Alabama had just won a national championship. I thought he was old, but now I realize he was probably in his prime.

“He left to take a desk job, so he could be at home to take care of my mother,” she said. “So he could change diapers, feed her, and dress her. If that doesn’t saw what kind of man he was … he was definitely a complete person.”

Charlotte Moore suffered from early-onset Alzheimers for approximately 20 years.

Mal Moore’s brother, Frank Moore, acted as emcee for Sunday’s festivities. Others on the program included state Commissioner of Mental Health Jim Perdue, Sen. Gerald Allen of Tuscaloosa, and Secretary of State John Merrill.