By Melinda Narro
Fort Bend Museum Intern
John Matthew Moore began his career in Congress in 1905 at the age of 43—coincidentally, the same age that the nation’s then-Commander-in-Chief, Theodore Roosevelt, had become President after his own predecessor was assassinated. However, unlike President Roosevelt, who was famed for his larger-than-life personality and impassioned speechmaking, Moore left his mark on the American political landscape in a much less boisterous fashion.
During his seven years in Congress, Moore never made a spectacle of himself on the House floor. Instead, the modest, well-liked Richmond businessman went pragmatically about the work of, as he put it, representing “the best interests of the whole people of the district.” A staunch Democrat, Moore lent steady support to his party’s national initiatives, including lowering tariffs, enlarging the powers of the Interstate Commerce Commission, and ensuring speedy completion of the unfinished Panama Canal. At the same time, his focus never strayed far from directly serving what he deemed “one of the best districts of the best State in the Union.” Moore’s diligent efforts helped secure federal appropriations for a variety of civic projects in East Texas, most notably waterway improvements on Buffalo Bayou, the Brazos and Trinity rivers, and the Galveston ship channel. He also rustled up funding to construct a Federal Building in Houston and a post office in Navasota, as well as increasing rural mail delivery routes within his district.
By the time John Moore announced his retreat from Washington politics, a new, much embattled President, William Howard Taft, sat in the Oval Office. Democrats had recently wrested House control from Republican hands for the first time in more than a decade, and the past several years had witnessed an uptick in progressive-versus-conservative squabbling and intra-party rifts. Amidst such noisy conflict, Moore’s legacy of quiet, effective collaboration with his Congressional colleagues—what the Houston Post dubbed his “Get Results” approach—must have seemed especially notable and praiseworthy. “The people of Houston,” the Post declared in concluding its 1912 article, “will remember gratefully his splendid service on (their) behalf."