Debate tournament name reveals troubled past

1931 Debate State Championship Team (lt-rt): Duane Baird, Pat Hogan, Mrs. Alma Moore, Florine Rankin, Robert Rayburn.

Harvey County Historical Society

1931 Debate State Championship Team (lt-rt): Duane Baird, Pat Hogan, Mrs. Alma Moore, Florine Rankin, Robert Rayburn.

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It is almost commonplace for beneficiaries of activities, whether that be sports, music, debate, etc. to be honored and remembered by having things named after them. This is the case for two notable names in Newton’s history: Frank Lindley, and Alma Moore. In late 2018, controversy sparked over the name of Lindley Hall historic basketball court, due to the fact that it’s namesake, Frank Lindley segregated his basketball team by race. The Newton Board of education ruled against changing the name, and instead opted for putting an educational center in the gym to educate people on the true nature of Lindley.
The aforementioned Alma Moore was a teacher at Newton High School from 1927 to 1966. Moore was the debate coach for Newton, and in honor of her, the Newton debate team’s invitational tournament is named the ‘Alma Momma Moore’ invitational.
“The only reason we call it the ‘Alma Momma Moore’ is because her family donated some money to the debate team,” debate coach David Williams said. “Although we’re appreciative of her contributions, we’re sort of reconsidering naming our tournament after her.”
In a similar way that Frank Lindley was controversial, Alma Moore reportedly had bigoted views and didn’t allow the participation of a student of hers on the grounds that she was dating a mexican student.
“My fourth sister Pat was dating a guy who was mexican, at that time, and she was not permitted to try out for an NHS group called the usherettes (whom Moore was the sponsor for) for this reason,” head librarian Traci Henning said.
There currently is no push for the invitational debate tournament’s name to be changed, but the process would prove to be easy if there was.
“I have not made any plans to change the name of the tournament. But I think if there was a push from people that thought we should change the name of it, I wouldn’t be opposed to it at all,” Williams said. “It would probably be as simple as just writing something different on the invite sheet that we send to other team, no quite as complicated as the situation with Lindley Hall.”
Both Williams and Henning made it a point that they are not trying to spark major controversy, but think Alma Moore’s indiscretions should not go unnoticed.
“This is not a defense of any form of bigotry or racism, but both Lindley and Moore are a product of their time. It was widely accepted in their time to openly discriminate based on skin color,” Henning said. “but we know that is obviously not an okay way to think today.”