J.P. Moore, 97, passed away on March 3, 2019, surrounded by his loving wife and family. Mr. Moore was born on January 16, 1922, in Belfast, Arkansas, to Miles Porter Moore and Elaine Griffin Moore. At the age of four, he and his family moved to Benton, Arkansas.
As a Benton High School Panther, Mr. Moore lent his athletic talents to a variety of sports. He ultimately became the first person in school history to letter in three sports—basketball, track and football. He was often referred to as the "Pride of Benton" and a "one man track team" after he set the state track record of 9.9 seconds in the 100-yard dash (standing for over a quarter century); he ran the 220-yard dash in just 22.2 seconds; set the discus record with a throw of 137 feet and 10 inches, and placed third in the shot put (despite BHS not even having a shot put or discus ring).
When he wasn't running laps around the competition in track and field, he was running for game-winning touchdowns on the football field. It was within those 100 yards where his athleticism, agility and grit proved strongest. As a senior running back he scored 20 of 23 touchdowns. In 1940 he was one of the most highly recruited football players in the country. In what later became known as "the state's most famous graduation ceremony," the legendary coach Paul "Bear" Bryant whisked him away to Vanderbilt University on the night of his graduation, disappointing more than 20 other coaches waiting impatiently to recruit the "towering gridironer with more power in his right toe than the last tornado to hit Saline County." Little did any of them know, Coach Bryant had already won over J.P.'s mother (and the decision maker) during a simple dinner in the family's home.
His remarkable record as a Benton Panther earned him an induction into the Benton Athletic Memorial Museum in 1996. He was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame and the Arkansas Track and Field Hall of Fame in 2004.
As a Vanderbilt Commodore, he played both offense and defense. He returned both punts and kickoffs to establish a school record with an average of 32.2 yards per return. He also was a varsity letterman for the baseball team.
He enlisted in the Army Air Force the day after the attack on Pearl Harbor. After the war, the Air Force sent him back to Vanderbilt where he completed his degree in electrical engineering. Upon graduation, Mr. Moore was drafted by the legendary George Halas to play football for the Chicago Bears, but chose instead to continue his career in the military.
During his 24-year military career, he was stationed in six states and two countries. When in Indiana, he obtained his MBA at Indiana University. He was awarded the Bronze Star in 1956 for his work in communications during the Korean War. In 1966, Mr. Moore retired as a lieutenant colonel from the USAF and went to work for the University of Arkansas.
Nearly 20 years later, he retired again and became an avid golfer. Not surprisingly, he mastered that sport as well, scoring holes-in-one in back to back years in his early 80s. His last hole-in-one came at the age of 87.
The most important thing he ever won though, was the heart of Marilyn Humphrey. The young beauty from Forrest City captured his eye on a school field trip in 1939. Moore was tagging along with his older brother, who happened to be Marilyn's chemistry teacher. They visited mineral mines and hot springs, but that wasn't the only chemistry they witnessed that day. Moore later referred to their meeting as "the greatest thing that ever happened to me." Four years and dozens of love letters later, the couple married on March 6, 1943, and remained in love and committed to one another for the next 76 years.
A devoted husband and family man, J.P. Moore was passionate about a number of things-sports, obviously, but poetry, patriotism and faith also topped the list. A member of First Baptist Church of Benton for over 50 years, he taught Sunday School to children and adults and was an active member of the Senior Choir.
Mr. Moore is survived by his wife Marilyn, four children: Cheryl Shelby, Jerry Moore, and Susan Moore, all of Little Rock and Melissa (James) Carry of Dallas, Texas, four grandchildren: Andrew (Julia) Shelby of Benton, Michael (Aimee) Shelby of Little Rock, Christine Carry of Dallas, Texas, and Chloe Carry of Austin, Texas, and seven great-grandchildren.
Visitation is scheduled for Thursday, March 7, 2019, from 6-8 p.m. at Roller-Alcoa Funeral Home in Benton. Services will be held Friday, March 8, 2019, at 1 pm at the First Baptist Church in Benton. Interment will follow at Smith New Rosemont Cemetery with full military honors.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that you consider memorials to Arkansas Children's Hospital, the American Heart Association or the American Cancer Society.
Published March 6, 2019