As a young man, Donald “Bill” McMoore helped break down barriers as at times the only black member of the University of Minnesota’s football team.
As an adult, he did the same for others, fighting for racial and gender equality in sports and education through a long career that culminated with being athletic director of the Minneapolis Public Schools in the 1970s and 1980s.
McMoore died on June 6 of natural causes. He was 90.
“He was always about civil rights,” said his son Greg. “He put a lot of time and effort into paving the way for other folks who didn’t have as much access to the system. He always took on that fight for everybody.”
Born in 1926, McMoore grew up in south Minneapolis where he was a star football player at Minneapolis South High School. He was also a standout Golden Gloves boxer in the 1940s, trained under Lyle Patterson at the Elliot Park Neighborhood House.
His path was not easy. He once recalled how his guidance counselor advised him not to bother taking the college entrance exam. He ignored the advice and ended up enrolling at the University of Minnesota. He was a walk-on running back on the Gophers football team under Bernie Bierman. While he spent a lot of time on the bench, when he got some playing time, it elicited big cheers from his supporters and fans from Minneapolis South.
He was also nationally ranked boxer during his college years. He graduated in 1951 with a degree in physical education and served in the U.S. Navy.
After college, he worked at various schools as a teacher and coach before spending 31 years of his career with the Minneapolis School District. He became the district’s first black head coach when he took over the gymnastics program at South in 1958.
When he was assistant principal at Central High School in the early 1970s, he worked closely with Marvin Trammel (who was principal at the time and went on to become an area superintendent) to desegregate the school, including various activities such as the cheerleading squad and band. It wasn’t an easy task, Trammel recalled. But McMoore was a rock through it all and served as a liaison to the community.
“He was just fearless in terms of facing problems,” Trammel said. “People knew they could rely on Bill. He was tough. That was basically what we needed at the time.”
In 1976, he came the district’s athletic director, a position he held until 1989.
“He adored that position,” said his son. “One of his biggest accomplishments that he felt very good about was the introduction of Title IX.”
McMoore championed girls’ sports as well as hiring female coaches, sometimes clashing with district coaches along the way. But he remained resolute. “It was just what was right,” he told the Star Tribune in 2007.
Later, he managed community relations for the Timberwolves for six years.
He was also a 25-year member of the Vikings “chain gang,” the crew that works at football games marking first downs and recording penalties. It’s a role that he passed on to his son, Greg, who is currently a member.
“It’s become a family tradition now,” he said. “He loved being on the sidelines of the Viking games year after year. Needless to say, in our family we’re all big Vikings fans.”
In his later years, McMoore remained an avid golfer, an active volunteer and a frequent fan in the stands of his grandchildren’s athletic matches.
Besides his son, survivors include his wife, Margaret, two other sons, Daryl and Jeffrey, daughter Gail Davis and six grandchildren. Services have already been held.