WASHINGTON PARISH, LOUISIANA– There are many closed murder cases from the Jim Crow era of the United States and countless others since our country’s inception. Once case, opened in 1965 in Louisiana and notoriously remains open today.
On June 1st, 1964, a community asked a military veteran and a father to apply for a job, when the sheriff allows for the first time, two African-American officers. David “Creed” Rogers and Oneal Moore made history. One year later, in 1965 a drive by shooting opens a case to find the murderer of Oneal Moore, one of the first black sheriffs in the area.
Tresslar Moore Lewis is one of four daughters of Deputy Moore and when asked about her father says, “I have no memory of my father. He was murdered when I was three years old. When they found out, the sheriff was going to hire blacks, they had already told them that they weren’t going to make a year and they didn’t. The ones who told them were the Klu Klux Klan. The people controlling the parish.”
News spread quickly beyond the parish borders as it paralyzed the black community of Varnado, Louisiana and forever changed the lives of Oneal Moore’s family. Maevella Moore is Oneal’s wife and says there a second that goes by in her house, where she doesn’t have thoughts about her husband saying, “he did everything to make things easier for me and girls. It was a great big change for me… that’s terrible. It’s been that many years but it hurts right now to talk about it.” Tresslar says “I have heard my mom talk about how she reacted to that situation. She would get very emotional when she would tell people about it, so I would never ask her. She went to he hospital when they took him there to the emergency room and she explained that when she got there, his hand fell over on the gurney and she knew he was dead.”
As the investigation climbed tiers, two men were arrested but were shortly released without sufficient evidence and witnesses. The FBI continues to investigate and it’s almost 60 years later as closure has yet to arrive for Maevella Moore. “They say it’s a good country but they haven’t done a thing about my husband. I know they found somebody. But God knows who’s done such a terrible thing.”
The murder of Oneal Moore is of a number of unsolved civil rights cases across the country. 113 cases were freshly reexamined during the President Obama Administration years. Only a handful of cases remain open. Oneal Moore’s death remains one of them.
As decades subside and new conflicts arise, often times older issues are looked at through new contemporary eyes. When asked about the Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter movements respectively, Oneal’s daughter Tresslar Moore Lewis says she can identify with a very specific group of Americans that fall in between both movements. Many African American families are also law enforcement families and being a member of both communities, can challenging. Tresslar Moore Lewis says, “all lives matter. I’m not going to be prejudice against police officers. I respect the police officer because they are there to protect and serve us. But I’ve been in the Black Lives Matter movement all my life. I respected my dad’s uniform but someone else didn’t respect his color and that’s the problem that remains.”
The death of Deputy Sheriff Oneal Moore helped lead to the establishment of a chapter of civil rights organization in Washington Parish. The first Chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice began in Jonesboro, Louisiana in 1964. After the death of Malcom X and Oneal Moore, the first affiliated chapter began in Bogalusa, Louisiana, in Washington Parish.