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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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Tommy Moore

History abounds at Moore’s Olde Tyme Barbeque. John Leonidas (LJ or John) Moore’s pit house, operating in various incarnations since the 1940s, might be most famous as a footnote in the subsequent states’ rights fight over the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

But, as is often the case in barbeculture, history and mythology are intertwined. LJ’s father liked to tell his son a story about the time he, a lawyer, took the case of the stolen pig. He advised his client, charged with theft, to halve the hog, give one side back to the accusing party, and address the judge as such, “Your Honor, I can swear to you that that man has no more of that pig than I do.” His client was acquitted.

LJ owned another story. Around 1945, he decided to enter the barbecue business, borrowed $35 from a friend, and bought himself a hog. The pig absorbed one rifle shot and took off. Across fields and through woods, LJ followed. His son, Tommy Moore, jokes that “there went the future of Moore’s Barbeque.” LJ Moore eventually found that pig, fired again, and established a barbecue empire in the coastal town of New Bern. The present location of Moore’s, with a name that harkens back to myth and history, opened under Tommy’s watch 40 years ago.

Date of interview:
2011-11-28 00:00

Rien T. Fertel

Denny Culbert

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The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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