In the beginning he was calm, standing back from the rostrum and teasing. He told the gathering of black lawyers that he might have become a barrister himself if it hadn't been for his mother in Hickory, N.C. "If you're a lawyer," he said she told him, "you're gonna be poor all your life. You better treat your momma right."
It was a perfect ice-breaker, and his audience chuckled. Thirty years ago, many blacks in their profession would have been driving taxicabs or working at the post office instead of working in their own or prestigious white law firms or even as govenment or corporate legal officers. Financial affluence is a new phenomenon for black lawyers. City Councilman Douglas E. Moore was letting his audience of black lawyers know that he understood that, and they seemed to appreciate it.
He told the audience that black lawyers and minister - like himself - had been his boyhood heroes because they were "on the firing line for our liberation." And unlke other blacks who have used white lawyers, Moore said, his legal representatives had always been black. "It have never doubted your capacity to interpret and defend," he said.
As he warmed up, Moore became forceful in this, his first speech to a "professional group." It was part of his drive to be elected City Council chairman this fall, in which Moore is running a self-styled campaign as an "unbought and unbossed" politician and the major guardian of back self-interest on the D.C. City Council.
To illustrate that point, Moore told the story of how in 1975 he recommended two black women lawyers to serve on the commission that helps select judges for this predominantly black city. His nominees were rejected by the predominantly black Council, he said, which decided instead to select a white male hardware store executive whom Moore nicknamed "Tarzan."
"It was an insult to every black woman lawyer in the city," Moore said, speaking slowly and deliberately, curling his lips, pointing his finger and puncutating his words by pounding his fist on top of the rostrum.
"When I (thump) am chairman (thump) of the City (thump) Council of the City (thump) Council we will have (thump) a black woman on that commission," he said, adding with exaggerated enunciation, "and a whole new ju-dicial temper-a-ment."
The rhetoric struck a responsive chord among those members of the Washington Bar Association present - including a few women - who applauded, smiled and spoke up approvingly.
Their warm response is one of many that Moore, the controversial 50-year-old preacher-politician and maverick Democrat, is receiving throughout the city these days from church groups, neighborhood organizations and people he sees on the streets.
At the same time, however, Moore has become political enemy number one for: Gay rights organizations, whom he has called "fascist faggots" and vowed to remove from the protection of the city's human rights codes; for same influential Democrats, whose more centralized brand of politics always leaves him on the outside.
And, most importantly, for many city businessmen, the chief financiers of most city political campaigns, who think, in short, that it would be bad for business for the city if Moore is elected the second highest official in local government on the eve of one of the biggest business booms in local history.
"White people aren't concerned about who's gonna be mayor. The chairman of the Council is the real person who appoints the commissions," Moore boasted to the black lawyers group. "They see me as a real threat. It ain't no lie. They're hustling day and night and trying to prop up somebody to run against me.
"The word is out to get Douglas Moore. But just like when the word was out to lynch a brother, who came to his rescue? The black lawyer. It ain't no different now. They're out to get a brother, so you are my defense.
"My case is rested." Moore received a standing ovation.
Early last winter, when MOore was the only announced candidate for Council chairman, many considered him a front-runner by default.They thought his political prominence would wash away with the spring rain as other candidates entered the race. There was also more concern at that time with the race for mayor, in which candidates had begun the early maneuvering and political movers and shakers were choosing up sides.
In the past months, however, many city political observers have come to feel that the differences between the primary candidates for mayor are minor when compared with the differences between Moore and the kind of City Council chairman some people want.
The Rev. David Eaton, an early favorite of many city politicians, has dropped out of contention for Chairman. City Councilman Marion Barry has ignored the pressures to run for chairman and is running for mayor instead.
Council members Arrington Dixon (D-four), David A. Clarke (D-one) and John A. Wilson (D-two) have only talked about entering the race, while Moore has been running officially since Sept. 9. Once one of these three - or anyone else - is seen as the one to beat Moore, ample money will be available to finance the "Anyone But Moore" movement.
With only three months remaining before candidacy petitions must be filed, the attention of many has shifted sharply to blocking Moore. One businessman, realtor Conrad Cafritz, is leading a "stop More" movement among city businessmen, but Cafritz refuses to talk about it publicly.
Thomas J. Owen, president of Perpetual Savings and Loan Association, said, "Everybody's been concentrating on who's going to be quarterback without thinking who will be the center. I think too many people have concentrated on the mayor's office. Everyone is naive. They're saying, 'Who could really believe Doug Moore.'"
"I was out at WTOP," Owen said, "and everyone who is black came up to Moore and wrapped their arms around him. He had a warm reception all the way from the security guard to the people who move the cameras around. If that is any indication, he has broad-based support among blacks, and blacks control the community."
R. Robert Linowes, president of the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade, said (Cafritz) "is articulating a sentiment being expressed by a number of people," including most persons in the city's business community, which the Board of Trade represents.
"During the past few years we've developed a desire to work together as a community, which has resulted in a better outlook toward people, jobs and economic development," Linowes said.
"We're not suggesting it should be a white running," Linowes said. "We're suggesting that it be someone with a good image for the city."
Owen said, "If people out in the suburbs or in Milwaukee or wherever they are pick up the newspaper and read Doug Moore-s statements, they won't move their businesses in (to the city)."
Even Robert B. Washington Jr., chairman of the D.C. Democratic State Committee, has told Moore that he should not consider running for chairman. "Doug, you're going out of your milieu," Washington joked to Moore at a private cocktail party late last year.
"My concern," Linowes added, "is the image that the may project for the city ceremonial activities. He may project the wrong image, a kind of rabble-rousing, shouting attitude that the city just doesn't need at this time. I don't think divisiveness is necessary for the city. We're making great strides."
Moorse lashed back sharply when a reporter told him of the concerns being expressed about his image. "If that's the case," he said, "I'd love to be a rabble-rouser so I could drive away all the speculators and all the people who are taking over all the land. But that's a damn despicable lie.
"I don't like divisions. I'm, just not giving the Board of Trade anything because they're gotten enough already. I don't think it's divisiveness. I think it's taking care of your own people."
Moore is a Methodist minister and the former militant chairman of the Black United Front. Four years ago he got more votes than any other atlarge candidate for City Council and wound up as chairman of the Council's powerful budget committee.
But since he has been on the council, Moore has had several well-publicized scrapes with the law. He was convicted, fined $500 and placed on 2-year supervised probation for assaulting (biting) a tow truck driver in an incident behind the District Building in 1975. He entered into an out-of-court money settlement with a Hyattsville woman in 1976 after she accused him of slapping her, ramming his car into her car while she sat in it and throwing a rock through her apartment window. Moore was also found guilty of unauthorized use of dealer's tags on his car and chose to pay a $200 fine in lieu of spending three days in jail. The Small Business Administration has taken Moore to court claiming he has defaulted on a $21,500 loan.
Following Moore's legal problems, and his refusal to vote with the council majority, Council Chairman Sterling Tucker led a successful effort to strip him of the budget committee chairmanship. Moore has also become an outcast of the city's regular Democratic organization.
Moore's own political strategy is sharply different from that of many other citywide office-seekers in Washington, where local elective politics is less than four years old. Unlike many of the others, Moore makes a major campaign pitch to some people who are often ignored because politicians believe they are not regular and dependable voters.
"I know who my constituents are. Black folks are traditionally a religious people. The only final city of refuge we have is the church," Moore said during an interview last week in the dining room of his home in the Brookland section of northeast Washington.
It is a modestly furnished, well-lived-in house. In almost every room, there is some kind of African art or artifact, testimonies to Moore's travels in Africa, his strong concern for his own ethnic heritage and an interest in art, which he says belies any suggestion that the lacks the cultural refinement necessary to fit the image of City Council chairman in the nation's capital.
"In a city with a weak party structure, it is the black church that has control over most people. It is not the Board of Trade; it is not the Democratic or Republican party; it is not even the labor unions," he said. Different Emphasis
Bucking conventional wisdom, Moore puts less emphasis per se on the two wards that are usually considered indispensable to winning any citywide election - the predominantly white and largely affluent third ward west of Rock Creek Park, and the mostly upper middle class and largely black fourth ward of upper northwest Washington.
Moore pays little attention to the bankers, builders realtors, utility and retail store executives who are the traditional sources of campaign funds and instead runds his races on shoestring budgets and marathon campaigns.
While other citywide candidates have been meeting with small groups of businessmen, professionals and Democratic party operatives, Moore has spent his time eating fish dinners at weekly Baptist ministers' gatherings and showing up at annual meetings of such fraternal groups as the Masons, the Order of the Eastern Star and Kappa Alpha Psi. He assigned most of the prestigious low-numbered license tags that he was alotted, Moore said, to influential ministers in town instead of to campaign donors and prominent businessmen.
"When you come out of a very little community, you know what's important. The Masons, the Eastern Star - they are important. They are part of our social fabric," says, Moore.
Since coming on the Council, Moore separated himself from most of his Council colleagues by his stands against such things as rent increases and loopholes in the city's anti-speculation tax - things he says will hurt poor people. He has also strongly opposed gay rights, legalized gambling, and softer penalties for marijuana use, which are big issues with city clergy men. Affluent Sympathizers
Neverthless, many political observers believe he has sympathizers - who do not necessarily support his candidacy - among more affluent persons in the city.
Vincent Cohen, a black partner in a prestigious city law firm, said many are surprised when he expresses some appreciation for Moore. "I've told that to a lot of white folks. I guess they think that because I work for Hogan and Hartson, I'd be against him," Cohen said recently. "But some of the positions he takes, I dig.
"I think they are frightened to death speak in the political language. Doug doesn't use code words. He's like the guy on the streets. He speaks right out. He might not have a base, but some of the things he says make sense."
The black pastor of an influential downtown church, who does not himself support Moore, said many members of his middle class congregation are Moore sympathizers and "it's distressing to me."
"If I stood up and said, 'How many of you plan to vote for Douglas Moore?' the congregation would be split right down the middle" he said, "The whole encroachment of whites into black neighborhoods and what the real estate industry is doing to the city causes homeowners to be most frightened. The verbiage he uses is what people want to hear."
While the church is Moore's major base of support, he also has supporters among many of the former civil rights activists in the city, many of whom have now moved into key positions in government and business. In a city where many blacks are from the states to the south, Moore also gets political mileage out of being from North Carolina.
That becomes apparent in following Moore around on a recent tour of the employes' cafeteria at Children's Hospital, where one of his first questions at almost every table was, "Where you from?" Guessing Game
If anyone answered with the name of a North Carolina town, Moore had already measured the distance between it and his home and would respond, for example, "That's 145 miles from my hometown. I'm from Hickory." With others, he played a guessing game.
"You from North Carolina or Mississippi?" he asked one woman.
"Neither one," came the response.
"Yes," she said blushing.
"Norfolk or Newport News?"
"Newport News," she said, and Moore grinned triumphantly and gave his head a short little jerk of approval.
Some of Moore's stances have drawn him white supporters, he contends, including his opposition to higher residential property taxes, the proliferation of sex-oriented businesses into residential neighborhoods and a strict handgun registration law passed by the Council in 1976.
John Jacobs, executive director of the Washington Urban League, thinks Moore is in foct a skillful politican. "When you see Doug coming you expect a lot of rhetoric," Jacobs said. "But when I've heard him speak, he's done his homework. He's carefully analyzed what the audience he is speaking to is concerned about and he articulates issues that appeal to them."
"This stuff about Douglas Moore not liking white folks or not hiring white folks is garbage," Moore said, as an example, he pointed to Lynn Scholz, a white whome he hired as chief clerk when he was chairman of the budget committee. When Tucker took over the budget committee from Moore, he kept Scholz on in the same position.
"We might as well understand what the real issue is. It has nothing to do with my style. It has nothing to do with my rehtoric," Moore said. "It has to do with my ideology."