Remembering Powell A. Moore—Russell Foundation Trustee, Washington Insider, and Georgia Original
Speaking to Bob Short in 2010, Powell Moore said of his hometown, “I’m proud of the fact that I’m from Milledgeville, Georgia. Some people say it’s a small town in Middle Georgia. I think it’s a lot more than that.” Moore and Short would go on conjuring the names of several individuals of considerable import who had called Milledgeville home over the years.
Powell Allen Moore, who died on August 13, surely belongs on any shortlist of that city’s—and this state’s—prominent citizens. Although he never held elective office, Moore served for over five decades in the penumbras of power—both inside and outside government while living and working in Washington D.C. His was truly a life of achievement and significance, and his extensive career is documented in the Powell A. Moore Papers, which he donated to the Russell Library in 2014. His complete Reflections on Georgia Politics interview with Bob Short can be viewed online.
Born on January 5, 1938 to Jere and Sarah Moore, Powell spent his entire childhood in Milledgeville where his father co-owned and edited the city’s Union-Recorder newspaper. He attended high school and junior college at the Georgia Military College Preparatory School.
After graduating from Georgia Military College, Moore completed his college education, receiving an ABJ, at the University of Georgia’s Henry Grady College of Journalism in 1959. He then entered the United States Army as a junior infantry officer serving a tours of duty in West Germany. After returning from Europe in 1963, Moore put his UGA degree to good use, working briefly at the Union-Recorder before joining the Birmingham, Alabama, based Southern Natural Gas Company as a public affairs specialist.
Like the vast majority of Georgians in those days, the Moore was reared by Democrats, but he became an early Republican convert after a visit to the newly erected Berlin Wall and a careful reading of Arizona senator Barry Goldwater’s The Conscience of a Conservative while stationed in Germany. Moore went on to support Goldwater for president in 1964, and he played a part in the conservative takeover of the Georgia Republican Party that same year.
Two years later, in late 1966, Moore received an unexpected, fateful phone call. Bill Bates, Senator Richard B. Russell’s press secretary, was preparing to step down, and he was seeking his replacement. Always a great admirer of the senator, Moore felt obliged to inform Senator Russell that he was, in fact, a Republican. “I’m not hiring you for your politics. I’m hiring you because I want you to do what I tell you to do,” Moore recalled Senator Russell responding.
And with that, Moore joined Russell’s Washington office staff, which was led at that time by Charles E. Campbell. An energetic, young staffer, Moore collaborated closely with his counterparts, participating in the Senate Press Secretaries Association as well as the Congressional Staff Conservative Luncheon Club.
Despite a difference in partisan labels, Powell Moore proved an attentive and loyal assistant to the aging, and increasingly infirm, Russell. According to historian and Russell biographer Gilbert Fite, Moore’s tenure as press secretary coincided with a thaw in relations between the Georgia senator and the press. In fact, Russell even acceded to a request from the Atlanta Constitution’s Wayne Kelley to tape record an interview. With a wary Moore perched nearby, Senator Russell spoke for over an hour. Unfortunately for Kelley (and posterity), the recorder captured only silence!
Moore was at his post on January 21 in what is currently the Russell Senate Office Building when he received a telephone call from Charles Campbell informing him that the ailing senator had died. Moore shared the news privately with fellow staffers as well as Russell family members before making the official announcement at approximately 2:40 p.m.
Following Senator Russell’s death, Moore returned to the Republican fold when he accepted a position in Nixon White House as Deputy Director of Public Information at the Justice Department. While at Justice, Moore served under Attorney General John Mitchell and his successor, Richard Kleindienst.
He soon joined Mitchell at the newly established Committee to Re-Elect the President (CRP) in May 1972. As CRP’s Director of News and Information, Moore served as one of the primary points of contact between the committee and the Washington press, including two intrepid Washington Post reporters, Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, as the pair investigated a “third-rate burglary” at the Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate complex. The ensuing scandal that unfolded over the next two years, embroiled the White House, and forced President Richard Nixon from office in disgrace.
Although Moore provided testimony to the Senate Watergate Committee, he was never implicated in any criminal wrongdoing. Reflecting on the Watergate saga in 2010, Moore maintained, “It was not only illegal. It was not only immoral. It was just stupid.” He also admitted frankly, “[I]t’s a period of my career that I wouldn’t want to relive.” But on a brighter note, Moore and Bob Woodward became friends and, eventually, neighbors.
Moore, who had worked as Director of Press Relations for Nixon’s 1973 Inaugural Committee, was serving as a senior legislative affairs staffer when Nixon resigned in August 1974. He remained briefly in that position as a so-called “Nixon holdover” under President Gerald Ford, but he resigned in January 1975 before joining Ford’s presidential campaign.
After almost a decade in government service, Moore rejoined the private sector in 1976. He established a consulting firm, the Marketing Corporation of America, where he advised clients on Washington’s complex federal bureaucracy.
Ronald Reagan’s presidential election in 1981 signaled Moore’s return from the political wilderness. He joined the new Republican administration as Deputy Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs, overseeing Senate-White House relations. In that role, Moore helped guide Sandra Day O’Connor’s historic Supreme Court nomination successfully through the confirmation process. Afterward, Moore moved to the State Department where he served as Assistant Secretary of State for Intergovernmental and Legislative Affairs under both Al Haig and George Schultz (both former Nixon White House alumni).
After leaving the Reagan administration toward the end of 1983, Moore joined the Lockheed Corporation as its Vice President of Legislative Affairs. Thus began Powell Moore’s longest sustained period of private sector work. In 1985, he stepped down from Lockheed to form the consulting firm of Ginn, Edington, Moore, and Wade. Like Moore, former Congressman Bo Ginn and Rogers Wade were both native Georgians. He moved on to the Capitoline International Group in 1992 and to Global USA in 1998.
Moore left K Street for Capitol Hill in 1998 to become chief of staff in Tennessee senator Fred Thompson’s office where he remained until 2001 when President George W. Bush appointed Moore as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Legislative Affairs. Moore devoted the bulk of his time and attention to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as on the wider “War on Terror” following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was awarded U.S. Defense Department Medal for Distinguished Public Service by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2005.
Powell briefly joined McKenna, Long & Aldridge (now known as Denton’s) as Managing Director for Federal Government Relations after Bush’s first term came to a close. By 2006, however, Moore was back in government as the Representative of the U.S. Secretary of Defense to the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). A lifelong Europhile, he had long harbored a desire to return to the continent. Working out of Vienna, Austria, Moore represented the U.S. government on such security-related issues as arms control, human rights, and conflict prevention. He returned stateside following President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009.
Moore was working as a senior legislative advisor with Venable, LLP in Washington D.C. when he passed away.
On a personal note, I first met Powell Moore when I was still a graduate student in the UGA History Department. At that time, I did not know the full extent of Powell’s impressive resume. If I had, I would have probably been too nervous to strike up conversations for fear of exposing my ignorance of issues and events that he had participated in firsthand. He shared freely with me of his time, insights, and experiences, and I never saw him in a less-than-genial mood. As a former Russell staffer and foundation trustee, Powell was an unflinching supporter of and advocate for the Richard B. Russell Library—its mission, programming, and staff.
The last time I saw Powell was this past January in Milledgeville at a symposium examining the long life and career of Congressman Carl Vinson. And that’s where Sheryl Vogt and I were this Saturday to bid Powell farewell as he was laid to rest in his beloved hometown.
Postscript: Remembering Russell Library’s Powell A. Moore
Powell Moore first visited the Russell Library in the late 1970s. I remember coming in on a Saturday, when we were normally closed, to accommodate his visit. He was, after all, a former Press Secretary to Senator Russell. The tour was short; there was not much to show in the early days, but we shared at least three hours of reminiscing about the senator and imagining the library’s future.
As Ashton has written, Powell was a busy man. Even so, he never missed an opportunity to benefit the library. He was a mentor, adviser, advocate, colleague, and co-worker. Over the years, I treasured his friendship. Many members of our staff were touched by his engagement.
Powell arranged special visits for two of the senator’s closest colleagues, John Stennis and Robert Byrd; not only attended programs, recommended and engaged program speakers but also participated in one of our highly rated programs on intelligence gathering as well as several others; agreed to donate his papers, and helped to organize them; assisted in signing other donors; wrote articles and generated publicity for us; gave annually to the Russell’s oral history program and served as one of our expert interviewers on numerous occasions.
One of our favorite memories is a trip four of us made to McLean, VA, to collect more papers from Eugene Methvin, a Georgian and former editor of Reader’s Digest. Powell met us there to interview Gene, while some of us packed files and loaded a van. For lunch, he took us to one of his and Gene’s favorite Greek restaurants in the area and followed that with a quick driving tour of the cherry trees in bloom. The conversation was lively and fun. I believe we made one of our first Russell Tweets that afternoon.
Every visit with Powell ended in a conversation prompted by his “What can I do for the library?” That he will be missed is true on so many levels, yet all too inadequate in light of his generosity and spirit.