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Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

Fifty-one-year-old Richfield High School graduate Earl Carter has a number of money pitches, including a two-seam fastball, a curveball and a change-up.

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16th A.J. Moore High School reunion highlights veterans on 1st day
 Brooke Crum  / 
Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte  

A.J. Moore High School graduates Barbara Lee (left), class of 1956, Lillian Manning (center), class of 1953, and Callie Watkins (right), class of 1957, gather in the lobby of the Waco Convention Center during their weekend reunion.

Two weeks before Lillian Manning graduated from A.J. Moore High School, the infamous May 11, 1953, tornado hit Waco and killed 114 people, including one of her cousins.

Her father was working out in the garden, planting cabbage, just before the tornado rolled into town. He had run out of seeds and contemplated going into town for more, when he looked up at the sky and thought he better stay home.

At the same time, Manning was working at the Baylor University student union when what she thought was a bad thunderstorm hit Waco. It was not until the next day she and many others realized a tornado had devastated the town.

Manning, 84, went on to graduate from the all-black high school on May 29 at New Hope Baptist Church on North Sixth Street, as the city was still picking up the pieces from the tornado.

Manning, who lives in Waco, reunited with some of her classmates Friday for the first day of the A.J. Moore High School 16th biennial reunion for all classes, held at the Waco Convention Center. The reunion runs through Sunday afternoon.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

Don Wright, president of the Central Texas African American Heritage Foundation, straightens “The Legacy of A.J. Moore High School” exhibit showcase on display in the lobby of the Waco Convention Center during the school's 16th biennial reunion there.

Alexander James Moore was committed to educating Negro youths at a time of fierce segregation in Waco after the Civil War. The historic segregated high school built in 1923 near the Brazos River was named for him. It closed in 1971.

A.J. Moore High School took its name from Waco educator Alexander James Moore, who started a school for Waco’s black population in his home in 1875. In 1881, the school moved to a building at Clay Avenue and River Street when its enrollment outgrew Moore’s home. It was then called Second District Negro School. Moore served as principal until 1905.

The school building burned down in 1921, and a new school built two years later at 600 S. First St. opened with Moore’s name in tribute to his work. That school housed grades kindergarten through 12 from 1923 to 1952, when it became a high school with grades seven through 12.

It closed in 1971 due to school desegregation and urban renewal, and was torn down. The Moore name continued to live on in Jefferson-Moore High School, the current location of Indian Spring Middle School. After Jefferson-Moore High School was closed in a Waco Independent School District consolidation in 1986, the name lived on at A.J. Moore Academy, which is now within University High School. Moore High’s lion mascot also became the mascot for today’s Waco High.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

1963 A.J. Moore High School graduate Lilla Benson stands next to a replica of the school's lion mascot on display.

“A.J. Moore prepared me for the real world because the teachers were interested in me and wanted me to do well,” Manning said at the reunion.

Manning went on to college after graduating from the high school for black students that operated in some form from 1875 to 1971. She graduated from Texas Southern University in Houston with a degree in social work and worked at Baylor University before getting a job in West Virginia. She attended graduate school in Nashville before earning her teaching certificate at Paul Quinn College in Waco.

Life came full-circle for Manning when she began her student teaching at A.J. Moore. She eventually moved on to work at Huston–Tillotson University in Austin for two years, before moving to New York to work at King’s Park State Hospital, a psychiatric facility. She earned her doctorate from Clark Atlanta University, where she was able to see the body of Martin Luther King Jr. while in lay in state in 1968.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

The A.J. Moore High School class of 1967 is on display at the 16th biennial reunion at the Waco Convention Center.

Many of the graduates of A.J. Moore told similar stories of success Friday, most of them veterans. The reunion honored veterans at a luncheon Friday, where they shared war stories between bites.

James McCoy, a 1963 graduate, said he joined the Army in 1966 and became a personnel records specialist. He landed that assignment because of the skills he gained as a typist at A.J. Moore.

“The Civil Rights Act had just been signed the year before,” McCoy said. “It was very difficult, very challenging to be in the military if you were black, particularly if you weren’t a cook.”

He said the Army tried to get him out of the records office the entire three years he served. He said he was probably the only soldier to type up his own Article 15, a form of reprimand, twice. He got busted once.

“It was a real challenge. That was the unseen war that was being fought by the black soldiers still, even in that day,” McCoy said. “It’s one thing to be in combat in Vietnam. It’s another thing to be in combat among your own peers in the Army.”

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

A.J. Moore High School graduate Charles McDowell (left), class of 1965, shakes hands with Israel Anderson, a 1964 graduate, during their weekend school reunion. An event Friday highlighted graduates who went on to serve in the military.

Donald Dorsey, a 1962 graduate, got drafted in 1966 after graduating from Prairie View University, now Prairie View A&M University.

Dorsey had completed the mandatory two years of ROTC at the university but never planned to join the military. He had aspirations of going to medical school and was visiting Howard University in Washington, D.C., when he received a notice to report back to Waco.

Dorsey’s father told him to bring documentation with him to the draft office on Franklin Avenue to show that he could not join the military. He and his twin brother arrived at the office at 6 a.m.

“At 11 o’clock, I was on a bus headed for Fort Hood,” he said. “Three months later, I was at Fort Polk down in Louisiana.”

Dorsey had the choice to either become an infantryman or attend Officer Cadet School. He chose the latter but still ended up in Vietnam.

“In Vietnam, I experienced the terror of my life. I was a combat platoon leader in the Mekong Delta,” he said. “I remember sitting out in a foxhole, knee-deep in water. I was so wet I felt like a frog. Because it was so terrifying, it caused me to reflect, and that experience in the military really helped me see where I had come from and helped me determine where I wanted to go. I was blessed not to be killed because the majority of second lieutenants who were combat platoon leaders over there didn’t make it out, and disproportionately the number of brothers who went over there didn’t make it home either.”

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

Bettie Beard (right) and Sheryl Conner organize a display in the lobby of the Waco Convention Center for the A.J. Moore High School reunion that will continue there through the weekend.

T.C. Webster, a 1961 graduate, was at Arlington State University, now University of Texas at Arlington, when he received his draft notice.

“It ceased my higher education, but in reality I am glad that happened because the military paid for my college,” Webster said.

While serving in the military, he guarded secret poison gas reserves on Okinawa, which were scheduled to go to Vietnam if necessary, he said.

“But that’s all I can tell you,” he said.

Webster said he experienced racism in the military but mostly from the higher-ups. The rank-and-file had each other’s backs. The first time anyone ever called him the “n-word” was when he entered the corporate world, after graduating from Texas A&M University-Commerce.

Growing up on a sharecropper farm in Harrison’s Switch, Webster, 77, said he still owns the farmland in the historically black community southeast of Waco established by former slaves. The town had a primary school, but Webster had to go to Waco to attend high school.

“A.J. Moore was an asset to young men and women of color,” he said. “We had great teachers that prepared students for the future. This has become very important for us to come back and remember our heritage.”

Webster said he is proud to have attended A.J. Moore, although it was a segregated school. But that fact allowed him and other students to be proud to be black and proud to get an education.

Faye Howard, 69, said she continues to come to the reunions because of the connections she made at the school growing up and the new connections she makes at each reunion. She graduated from A.J. Moore in 1967.

“Everybody from that era, you never forget,” Howard said. “There’s nothing like your high school friends. That’s why I keep coming back. Whenever you see them, it brings back all the memories. It’s like coming home.”

Texas Collection — Fred Gildersleeve 

A Baylor University Texas Collection photo shows the 1964 A.J. Moore High School pep squad.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

The historical marker for A.J. Moore High School can be found on the Waco Riverwalk near the former Waco Downtown Farmers Market site. The long-segregated school closed in 1971.

US adds solid 224,000 jobs, making Fed rate cut less certain

WASHINGTON — U.S. employers sharply stepped up their hiring in June, adding a robust 224,000 jobs, an indication of the economy’s durability after more than a decade of expansion.

The strength of the jobs report the government issued Friday could complicate a decision for the Federal Reserve late this month on whether to cut interest rates to help support the economy. Most investors have anticipated a rate cut in July and perhaps one or two additional Fed cuts later in the year. That scenario may be less likely now.

Stocks sold off early Friday before paring their losses later. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down a modest 43 points. But the yield on the 10-year U.S. Treasury note climbed to 2.04% from just under 2% before the jobs report was released, reflecting a view that the Fed might now be less inclined to cut rates multiple times.

June’s solid job growth followed a tepid gain of 72,000 jobs in May, a result that had fueled concerns about the economy’s health. But with June’s pace of hiring, employers have now added, on average, a solid 171,000 jobs for the past three months. Last month’s burst of hiring suggests that many employers have shrugged off concerns about weaker growth, President Donald Trump’s trade wars and the waning benefits from U.S. tax cuts.

“Although there are drags on the economy in 2019, the expansion should continue through this year,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. “The doom and gloom was overblown.”

The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.7% in June from 3.6% for the previous two months, reflecting an influx of people seeking jobs who were initially counted as unemployed. Average hourly wages rose 3.1% from a year ago.

Trump responded to Friday’s jobs report by tweeting, “JOBS, JOBS, JOBS!” But the strong hiring gains have lessened the case, at least for now, for the Fed to slash rates as Trump has repeatedly and aggressively pressed the central bank to do.

“If we had a Fed that would lower interest rates, we’d be like a rocket ship,” the president asserted to reporters in an appearance Friday. “But we’re paying a lot of interest, and it’s unnecessary. But we don’t have a Fed that knows what they’re doing.”

Last year, Fed officials raised rates four times, in part to stave off the risk of high inflation and in part to try to ensure that they would have room to cut rates if the economy stumbled.

On Friday, the Fed reiterated that it would act as necessary sustain the economic expansion, while noting that most Fed officials have lowered their expectations for the course of rates. The Fed’s statement came in its semi- annual report on monetary policy.

In Friday’s jobs report for June, the hiring gains were broad. Construction companies added 21,000 workers after having increased their payrolls by only 5,000 in May. Manufacturers hired 17,000, up from just 3,000 in May. Health care and social assistance added 50,500 jobs. Hiring by transportation and warehousing companies increased 23,900.

The government sector was a major source of hiring, adding 33,000 jobs in June. Nearly all those gains were at the local level.

For Todd Leff, CEO of Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, the resilience of the U.S. job market has provided both an opportunity and a challenge. With more Americans earning steady paychecks, demand for massages and facials has increased, and the company plans to add 60 locations this year and roughly 1,800 jobs. But the low unemployment rate has also made it hard to find and retain workers.

“We could hire 1,000 more employees today — if they were available,” said Leff, whose company has about 430 locations and is based in Trevose, Pennsylvania.

Investors have been turning their attention to the Fed, which has expressed concern about threats to the economy, especially the uncertainties from Trump’s trade wars, and about inflation remaining persistently below its 2% target level. A Fed rate cut, whenever it happens, would be its first in more than a decade.

Joshua Shapiro, chief U.S. economist for the consultancy MFR, said the likelihood of a Fed rate cut late this month is now slightly lower, though he still estimates that the federal funds rate — what banks charge each other — will be sharply lower by the end of next year.

Ryan Wang, U.S. economist at HSBC Bank, suggested that the solid jobs report might create a communications challenge for Fed Chairman Jerome Powell when he testifies Wednesday and Thursday to congressional committees.

The financial markets still foresee a rate cut of 25 points this month, Wang said, adding, “It will be important to see if Chair Powell lays out on a strong case for near-term monetary easing in his testimony next week.”

The sluggish pace of hiring in May had signaled that employers might have grown more cautious because of global economic weakness and, perhaps, some difficulty in finding enough qualified workers at the wages that companies are willing to pay.

The pace of the overall economy is widely thought to be slowing from annual growth that neared a healthy 3% last year. Consumer spending has solidified. Home sales are rebounding. But America’s manufacturing sector is weakening along with construction spending. Growth in the services sector, which includes such varied industries as restaurants, finance and recreation, slowed in June.

Overall, though, employers have been adding jobs faster than new workers are flowing into the economy. That suggests that the unemployment rate will remain near its five-decade low and that the economy will keep growing, even if only modestly.

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July 4th holiday keeps authorities busy with water rescue, fireworks confiscation
 Kristin Hoppa  / 

Law enforcement stayed busy over the Fourth of July, confiscating at least $10,000 worth of illegal fireworks and assisting in at least three water rescue and drowning recovery efforts, authorities said.

Waco fire marshals patrolled neighborhoods Thursday and took possession of hundreds of illegal fireworks in a six-hour period. Fire Marshal Lt. Keith Guillory said fire crews and police teamed up in the department’s annual effort to ensure public safety during the holiday.

“I’d say we have between $10,000 to $15,000, that’s a pretty good number, for how much these fireworks are worth,” Guillory said. “Our goal is to get compliance, so we don’t have to worry about house fires due to fireworks and people getting injured or traumatic injuries from fireworks.”

North Waco neighborhoods were one of the areas were fire marshals took the most fireworks away from residents, although patrols stayed busy from 6 p.m. to midnight throughout the city. This year, no house fires were reported due to fireworks, but firefighters did respond to dumpster fires that may have been connected to fireworks, Guillory said.

The city, fire and police departments ramped up educational messages throughout the city this year in hopes of decreasing the potential loss of property and injuries, he said. This year, because efforts were increased, more illegal fireworks were collected than last year, Guillory said.

“We send out a lot of information through (the city’s channel), WCCC.TV, different media outlets, Facebook messages and the city ran their own campaigns through Facebook,” he said. “Throughout our history in the city with fireworks, we need to keep putting that effort out there and do a better job so we can’t say people aren’t listening.”

Waco police Sgt. W. Patrick Swanton said Waco officers had a busy holiday, but no significant calls or injuries were reported.

Staff photo — Rod Aydelotte 

Waco fire officials confiscated at least $10,000 worth of illegal fireworks that fire crews during the Fourth of July. The illegal fireworks will be destroyed with help of the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to firework patrol, McLennan County Sheriff’s Office deputies were busy during the holiday.

Deputies and Texas Game Wardens recovered the body of Louis Hajek, 39, of Gholson, from the river at about 4 p.m. Thursday, near Bosqueville. Sheriff Parnell McNamara said Hajek is believed to have drowned after he went missing in the river Wednesday night, near property he owns nearby.

Hajek had been missing since 10:30 p.m. Wednesday. His family called authorities at 7 a.m. Thursday to report he was missing, the sheriff said.

His family believed he may have fallen into the river because his property is adjacent to the east bank of the river, McNamara said.

Deputies also responded to BSR Cable Park around 10 p.m., when a 42-year-old man was pulled from the park’s wave pool. McNamara said he was reportedly unresponsive when he was taken to Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest Medical Center for treatment.

The man remained on life-support, in critical condition Friday afternoon, Chief Deputy Kilcrease said. His name was not available for release.

From 9 p.m. Wednesday through the end of Thursday, deputies responded to 108 calls for service countywide, Capt. Chris Eubank said. Those calls, including priority calls, the recovery of Hajek’s body and calls at BSR kept deputies busy for hours, he said.

“I’d say that is about double our average call amount,” Eubank said. “We had deputies at calls and we had other calls holding, so we were running back-to-back calls most the time.”

Another call included a missing persons call, after three females, ages 11, 27 and 30, went tubing on the North Bosque River in Bosque County on Thursday morning. The group was reported missing at 11 p.m., before they were located on the shore of the river, near Bone Road, in Valley Mills.

“Authorities had to ‘ping’ their phone and found that the group tried to make a call at about 8 p.m., and they were able to locate them based off that ‘ping’,” Kilcrease said. “They were on the water for about 12 hours and I don’t know if they had any water with them or not, but they were located by volunteer firemen.”

The status of the group was unknown Friday.

“During that same time frame, we worked a suicide, an attempted suicide, and several other priority calls,” Kilcrease said. “It was a busy July 4th for us.”

Authorities and first responders also were kept busy Friday morning, first at 2:30 a.m. with the fiery collision of two tractor-trailers that kept Interstate 35 closed for hours near Lorena, then by a two-car injury wreck on Interstate 35 that Texas Department of Public Safety officials blamed on driving while intoxicated.

US to pursue citizenship question on census but path unclear

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Friday it will press its search for legal grounds to force the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, hours after President Donald Trump said he is “very seriously” considering an executive order to get the question on the form.

Trump said his administration is exploring a number of legal options, but the Justice Department did not say exactly what options remain now that the Supreme Court has barred the question at least temporarily.

The government has already begun the process of printing the census questionnaire without that question.

The administration’s focus on asking broadly about citizenship for the first time since 1950 reflects the enormous political stakes and potential costs in the once-a-decade population count that determines the allocation of seats in the House of Representatives for the next 10 years and the distribution of some $675 billion in federal spending. It also reflects Trump’s interest in reshaping how congressional districts are drawn.

“You need it for Congress, for districting,” he said Friday. “How many people are there? Are they citizens? Are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons.”

Districts now are based on the total population. Some Republicans want them based on the population of eligible voters, a change that could disadvantage Democrats by excluding immigrants. The Supreme Court has left open the issue of whether districts based only on the population of eligible voters is constitutional.

The Census Bureau’s own experts have said a citizenship question would discourage immigrants from participating in the survey and result in a less accurate census that would redistribute money and political power away from Democratic-led cities where immigrants tend to cluster to whiter, rural areas where Republicans do well.

Trump, speaking as he departed the White House for a weekend in New Jersey, said he might take executive action.

“It’s one of the ways that we’re thinking about doing it, very seriously,” he said.

An executive order would not, by itself, override court rulings blocking the inclusion of the citizenship question. But such an action from Trump would perhaps give administration lawyers a new basis to try to convince federal courts that the question could be included.

“Executive orders do not override decisions of the Supreme Court,” Thomas Saenz, president and general counsel of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, said in a statement Friday. The organization is representing plaintiffs in the census lawsuit in Maryland.

Later Friday, Justice Department lawyers formally told U.S. District Judge George Hazel in Maryland the administration is not giving up the legal fight to add the citizenship question to the next census. But they also said it’s unclear how they will proceed, according to a court filing.

“They still say they don’t have clear instructions on what to do,” said Saenz, who took part in a conference call with the judge and lawyers for both sides in one of three lawsuits seeking to keep the question off the census. The other two are in New York and California.

Hazel had expressed mounting frustration with the mixed signals the administration was sending, first telling him on Tuesday that the question was off only to have Trump tweet the next day that the administration was “absolutely moving forward” with efforts to include the question.

Trump’s administration has faced numerous roadblocks to adding the question, like last week’s Supreme Court ruling that blocked its inclusion, at least for now. Both the Justice and Commerce departments indicated on Tuesday that they were moving forward with the census, minus the citizenship question.

But Trump has insisted otherwise, pushing his administration to come up with a way to include the controversial query. He suggested Friday officials might be able to add an addendum to the questionnaire with the question after it’s already printed.

In the Supreme Court’s decision last week, Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four more liberal members in saying the administration’s current justification for the question “seems to have been contrived.”

The administration had pushed the Supreme Court to decide the case quickly, citing a July 1 deadline to begin printing the forms. The court made the rare move of taking up the case directly from a trial court in New York before an appeals court had weighed in. As recently as June 20, Solicitor General Noel Francisco reminded the justices of the need for a quick decision, writing that “for all practical purposes, the Census Bureau needs to finalize the 2020 questionnaire by June of this year.”

The Trump administration had said the question was being added to aid in enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, which protects minority voters’ access to the ballot box.

But the question’s opponents say recently discovered evidence from the computer files of a Republican redistricting consultant who died last year shows that, far from helping minority voters, discrimination against Hispanics was behind the push for the citizenship question.

Hazel on Friday gave the plaintiffs in the Maryland claim until Aug. 19 to gather more evidence and take testimony from administration officials. If Hazel finds discrimination, that could be a separate basis for blocking the citizenship question.

Preparations for the $15.6 billion 2020 Census are intricately choreographed. More than 425,000 people have already started applying for the half million positions needed for the 2020 Census. The bureau also is in the middle of a test run, with 480,000 households sent questionnaire information, according to the bureau’s monthly status report from May.