Community remembers longtime attorney Johnny Moore

By: 
CHARLIE BENTON
Staff Writer

The Starkville community is saying goodbye to one of its fixtures and advocates, with the death of longtime local attorney Johnny Moore.

Multiple sources confirmed Moore’s death Thursday, at University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson. Moore was 58 and died following a short illness. Before his death, he practiced law from the same downtown Starkville office his father, former state Sen. John Paul Moore, practiced from. The two practiced alongside each other until John Paul Moore’s death in 2011.

The younger Moore’s practice focused primarily on real estate law and other chancery matters. He was also appointed by Oktibbeha County to represent those with mental health issues and substance problems in chancery court. He graduated from Starkville Academy in 1978 before receiving a bachelor’s of professional accounting from Mississippi State University in 1982. He graduated from the University of Mississippi with a law degree in 1984, and was admitted to the Mississippi Bar the following year.

“My wife and I moved here about nine years ago, and not long after we moved here, we met Johnny,” said Mark Jackson, an attorney and a close friend of Moore. “The first time we met was at the closing table, when he was closing our first house, and got to know Johnny then.”

Jackson said he and his wife, Molly Jackson, who practices law at Moore’s firm in Starkville, got to know Moore better through working alongside him in courtrooms and attending other legal functions with him. Moore’s wife Karen Moore, also babysat the Jacksons’ two daughters.

“Johnny, for most of his career, has done real estate, which means he’s dealt with almost everybody in town at some point, buying a house, selling a house, something like that, those relationships,” Jackson said. “He also does a lot of probate work, doing wills and estates, estate planning, things of that nature.”

Jackson said Moore took pride in representing those with mental health and substance abuse issues.

“I think he saw those people as people who were suffering from some type of illness or some type of disease that they were having to deal with, and that they didn’t have a lot of people to help them, and a lot of times they certainly couldn’t help themselves, and he saw his job as being able to fight for them, and get them the help they may need,” Jackson said.

Jackson said Moore would be missed by many in the community, both on a legal and personal level. He said Moore was often called upon by other lawyers for assistance in real estate matters, because of his vast experience in the area. He also noted Johnny’s talent at addressing boards, a task dreaded by many attorneys.

“Since yesterday, the phone calls and text messages have been pouring into the family, to myself and my wife, people throughout the community,” Jackson said. “Just about every lawyer in town has spoken to us at some point about how big of a gap, or how big of a hole there will be here.”

Jackson also said Moore would be remembered for his storytelling and humor, in addition to his experience and skill as an attorney.

Oktibbeha County Chancery Clerk Sharon Livingston said Moore was always “laughing, joking, and cutting up.”

“He was very dedicated and proud of his family,” Livingston said. “He talked highly of his family. He would always come in every day and show us videos. He was a really good family guy.”

Retired MSU Bulldogs linebackers coach and assistant head coach Jim Tompkins served as Moore’s personal trainer at Snap Fitness in Starkville. He also recalled Moore’s humor. He said Moore would joke around with everyone at the gym regardless of how old or young they were.

He gave an example of a running joke Moore had with a younger gym member over his resemblance to the cartoon character “Johnny Bravo.”

With his voice full of emotion, Tompkins spoke of his relationship with Moore.

“I’ve worked out Johnny four days a week for the last few years,” Tompkins said. “We’ve gone through a lot of things together, and I’ve just gotten to know him really, really well, and come to find out, we have a lot in common. I just really love him. He’s a dear, close friend, and I love him just like he’s my brother. He’s a member of my family.”

Tompkins said he would miss seeing Moore’s truck pull into the gym parking lot, or Moore showing up unannounced at his home with some tomatoes or a cantaloupe.

“He had friends all ages of life, and he loved people regardless of what color they were, whether they were black or white, or whatever,” Tompkins said. “He loved them and he had a real feel for them and a real concern for them. He just wanted to do right by people.”

Moore also made a foray into local politics, running an unsuccessful bid for Starkville mayor in the 2017 municipal election. Moore lost by five votes to Starkville Mayor Lynn Spruill. Moore challenged the results, but a special judge upheld Spruill’s victory in July.

“He was very down to earth, very humble, and (he) related to everybody,” said Ricky Bishop, who served as Moore’s campaign manager. “He never met a stranger. There’s nobody he wouldn’t go up and speak to. That’s just who he was.”

Bishop also requested prayers for the Moore family.

As of 5 p.m. Friday, Moore’s arrangements were still pending.

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