A retired 79-year-old Methodist Minister who died after setting himself on fire on a busy street in Grand Saline, Texas, revealed in a suicide note made public by police that he did it in honor of the many African-Americans who were lynched in the United States, and implored the community to repent of its racist past.
"Many African-Americans were lynched around here, probably some in Grand Saline: hanged, decapitated and burned, some while still alive. The vision of them haunts me greatly," wrote Charles Robert Moore in the concluding paragraph of his suicide note, according to the Tyler Morning Telegraph.
"So, at this late date, I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned, with love in my heart not only for them — but also for the perpetrators of such horror but especially for the citizens of Grand Saline, many of whom have been very kind to me and others who may be moved to change the situation here," he ended.
Police Chief Larry Compton told the Telegraph that Moore, who has addresses in Allen and Sunnyvale, Texas, drove to Grand Saline on June 23 and parked his car outside of a Dollar General store, and then pour gasoline on his body and set himself on fire.
"I have never seen anything like this in my entire career in law enforcement, which includes my years as an arson investigator for the Mesquite Fire Department," Compton, 66, told the Telegraph.
Shocked witnesses were able to put the fire out but it was too late for Moore.
"They got the fire put out, and the man was transported to Parkland Hospital in Dallas, where he later died of his injuries," said Compton.
The suicide note was left on Moore's windshield.
Read Rev. Charles R. Moore's complete suicide letter below (via Tyler Morning Telegraph):
I was born in Grand Saline, Texas almost 80 years ago. As I grew up, I heard the usual racial slurs, but they didn't mean much to me. I don't remember even meeting an African-American person until I began driving a bus to Tyler Junior College and made friends with the mechanic who cared for the vehicles: I teased him about his skin-color, and he became very angry with me; that is one way I learned about the pain of discrimination.
During my second year as a college student, I was serving a small church in the country near Tyler, when the United States Supreme Court declared racial discrimination in schools illegal in 1954; when I let it be known that I agreed with the Court's ruling, I was cursed and rejected. When word about that got back to First Methodist Church in Grand Saline (which had joyfully recommended me for ministry – the first ever from the congregation), I was condemned and called a Communist; during the 60 years since then, I have never once been invited to participate in any activity at First Methodist (except family funerals), let alone speak from its pulpit.
When I was about 10-years-old, some friends and I were walking down the road toward the creek to catch some fish, when a man called 'Uncle Billy' stopped us and called us into his house for a drink of water –but his real purpose was to cheerily tell us about helping to kill "niggers" and put their heads upon a pole. A section of Grand Saline was (maybe still is) called "pole town," where the heads were displayed. It was years later before I knew what the name meant.
During World War II, when many soldiers came through town on the train, the citizens demanded that the shades in the passenger cars be pulled down if there were African-Americans aboard, so they wouldn't have to look at them.
The Ku Klux Klan was once very active in Grand Saline, and still probably has sympathizers in the town. Although it is illegal to discriminate against any race, relative to housing, employment etc., African-Americans who work in Grand Saline live elsewhere. It is sad to think that schools, churches, businesses, etc., have no racial diversity when it come [sic] to blacks.
My sense is that most Grand Saline residents just don't want black people among them, and so African-Americans don't want to live there and face rejection. This is a shame that has bothered me wherever I went in the world, and did not want to be identified with the town written up in the newspaper in 1993, but I have never raised my voice or written a word to contest the situation. I have owned my old family home at 1212 N. Spring St. for the last 15 years, but have never discussed the issue with my tenants.
Since we are currently celebrating the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer in 1964, when people started working in the South to attain the right to vote for African-Americans along with other concerns. This past weekend was the anniversary of the murder of three young men (Goodman, Schwerner and Cheney) in Philadelphia, Mississippi, which gave great impetus to the Civil Rights Movement – since this historic time is being remembered, I find myself very concerned about the rise of racism across the country at the present time. Efforts are being made in many places to make voting more difficult for some people, especially African-Americans. Much of the opposition to President Obama is simply because he is black.
I will son [sic] be eighty years old, and my heart is broken over this. America (and Grand Saline prominently) have never really repented for the atrocities of slavery and its aftermath. What my hometown needs to do is open its heart and its doors to black people, as a sign of the rejection of past sins.
Many African Americans were lynched around here, probably some in Grand Saline: hanged, decapitated and burned, some while still alive. The vision of them haunts me greatly. So, at this late date, I have decided to join them by giving my body to be burned, with love in my heart not only for them but also for the perpetrators of such horror – but especially for the citizens of Grand Saline, many of whom have been very kind to me and others who may be moved to change the situation here.