Grace Hooten Moore, 1917-2012

When Grace Hooten Moore, WC ’38, was a drama and speech student at Brenau College in the 1930s, she had such a deep voice that the only parts she ever landed in theatrical productions at the women’s college were those of men. As one version of the story goes, her classmates in her senior year decided that in at least one production, she would have to play a woman.

Whether that occurred has yet to be determined by archival research, but for the rest of her 95 years Grace Moore played the role of a strong, vibrant southern woman to the hilt. And that included her service, starting in 1974, as the first female chair of the Brenau Board of Trustees. All told, she served on the board in the early 1970s for two cnsecutive three-year terms.

“First and foremost, Grace Moore was one of the kindest, concerned, most genteel Southern women you would ever meet,” Brenau President Ed Schrader said after her death on Aug. 22. “Brenau has lost a great friend and a loyal supporter.”

Next to her family, Grace Hooten Moore loved Brenau. She served at the first female chairman of the institution’s Board of Trustees.

Her legacy, however, continues.  Grace’s daughter-in-law, Evanda Gravitte Moore, WC ’71, followed her as a trustee. Jim Moore, Evanda’s husband and Grace’s son, currently serves on the board. Her son, Walton, also has been an active Brenau supporter. And, until her health began limiting her mobility, Grace was a presence at alumni events, Alpha Gamma Delta sorority activities, gallery openings, theatrical and musical productions – virtually any kind of Brenau event.

“Next to her family,” Jim Moore said of his mother, “she loved Brenau and anything that had anything to do with Brenau.”

Born in McDonough, Ga., May 28, 1917, one of four daughters in the family of  James Ernest and Lillie Bertha Dickson Hooten, Grace also performed in plays at McDonough High School and won the state championship as best high school actress.

She migrated to Brenau and Gainesville in the midst of the Great Depression, and became one of those people who never left. She was so entwined with the community that she was regarded as a Gainesville native. For example, when old timers talk about the seminal event in their lives and the life of the city, the disastrous tornado of 1936, as they did at a Northeast Georgia History Center program a few years ago, Grace Moore was in the midst of the discussion. As a student, she’d just gone to work at a store on the town square when the tornado struck and destroyed the heart of the city.

After college, she taught high school speech and reading in Canton, Ga. In 1939 she married her Gainesville sweetheart, George Walton Moore Jr., who was known as “Dub.”  Except for the time during World War II when they lived in Fort Smith, Ark., and Santa Barbara, Calif., they made their home in Gainesville. In addition to sons Walton and Jim, who also remained in Gainesville, they had three daughters – Dixie Moore Harris of Raleigh, N.C., June Moore Boggs of Wilton, Conn., and Jean Moore Young of Atlanta.  After Dub died in 1999, Grace became one of the first residents of the Lanier Village community in Gainesville.

With her marriage, the life-long Baptist became a Methodist. She threw herself into work at Gainesville First United Methodist Church and community service with the same level of enthusiasm she deployed for Brenau. “My neighbors got out their purses when they saw me comin’ raising money for Community Chest, Cancer, the Red Cross, Heart, etc.” she once recalled, describing her relentless tenacity as a volunteer. She was a trustee and charter member of what is now the Junior League of Gainesville, and she work with Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, Cancer Society, the North Georgia Regional Medical Center, as a reader at the Chestatee regional Library and at the Hall County Public Library, where she put her Brenau speech and drama training to work as a “volunteer storyteller” – an art which, as just about anyone who knew her will confirm, she “volunteered” at every opportunity. And she kept her hand in drama, too, appearing occasionally in local productions, like the bicentennial production, Queen of the Mountains. (“I was ‘the Gainesville Lady,’” she wrote in a 2000 memo in her Brenau correspondence file.)

“Grace was so darn cute,” said Roseann Short, director of nonresidential programs at Brenau and, as a 1990 Women’s College alumna, an Alpha Gam sister. ” Whenever we took alum photos, she used to giggle and say  ‘OK, girls, smile and say ‘rich man!’”

She was selected Rotary Woman of the Year in 1974. The following year, Brenau presented her with the Mary Mildred Sullivan Award, which is Brenau’s highest non-academic honor, given to women whose extraordinary lives exemplify the noblest of human qualities.

Brenau also honored her with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 1980  and she was a member of the inaugural class inducted into the Brenau Alumni Hall of Fame in 2000.

A celebration of life service was scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 25, at Gainesville First United Methodist Church with Rev. Dr. Terry Walton and Dr. Don Harp officiating. The family planned to receive friends after the service in the church Great Room.

The family requests that memorials be made to Gainesville First United Methodist Church, Brenau University or a charity of choice.

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