NewsBlack History Month


Remembering A.J. Moore High School: Waco's first high school for black students after the Civil War

Posted: 9:43 AM, Mar 01, 2024
Updated: 2024-03-01 10:53:44-05
Thumbnails KXXV KRHD (32).png

WACO, Texas — Timeless photos and precious memories.

Not much is left to remember Waco’s first Black high school following the Civil War.

“It was amazing to be a part of that and knowing that I was there actually in that building,” Waco resident Linda Chappel Bethley said.

Many years ago, the area off of University Parks Drive and Clay Avenue once belonged to A.J. Moore High School.

Educating more than 4,000 students, many graduating and continuing on to successful careers.

Bethley attended A.J Moore from 1967 to 1971.

She said A.J. Moore was a safe space and pillar for the Black community at a time our country was deeply divided.

“Whether it be basketball, football, or etc, the community came out to support the schools,” Bethley said.

Her time at A.J. Moore was cut short. After nearly a century, the beloved school closed its doors in 1971.

“It was like burying someone,” Bethley said.

In 1972, Waco ISD opened Jefferson-Moore High School—one of the first integrated schools in the city.

“I think it’s a burden because the way they took away the school and made it another name,” Jefferson-Moore Class of '74 graduate Darryl Cobb said.

Bethley and her Jefferson-Moore classmate Cobb said it felt like they were forced into situations no one wanted.

“It started out real ugly. We’re talking about fights. 'We didn’t want you at our school, go back to your school,'” Bethley said.

The class of '74 graduates said the tensions only lasted for a semester.

“We started talking to one another, and that made the difference. We didn’t have our parents or other principals. We built those relationships with each other,” Bethley said.

The walls shattered and the sides became one.

“When we all got together, it was a family thing. It was like every day was a happy day. We had our ups and downs, but we had a great time,” Cobb said.

Like A.J. Moore, Jefferson-Moore closed down in 1987. After, the school was consolidated along with two other high schools to form the current Waco High School.

The two alums said even though their beloved school is no more, its legacy will never be forgotten.

“Look where we began and look where we are now. There's still work to be done, but a lot of things have changed for the better,” Bethley said.

The A.J. Moore Alumni Association has awarded dozens of scholarships to local students and descendants of alumni of their high school since 1989.