Raleigh woman led prescient campaign for developmentally disabled

akenney@newsobserver.comApril 4, 2014 

The late C. Durham Moore Jr. and Betty Moore at a memorial service for their son, Jimmy Moore, in 2007.

— Betty Moore waged her campaign from a corner of her kitchen. She had the names of every public official in the county listed there – anybody who would listen, or who wouldn’t. She wanted to change the way society treated her son and people like him.

“That telephone, that wall phone stayed busy day and night. After dinner she was back on the phone – advocating, educating, motivating and making things happen,” said Mary Freeman, a friend and colleague. “And through that work, they changed this community.”

Moore, a founder of the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities, died Thursday at age 90. In many ways, her mission since the 1960s had presaged a broader social change.

She and her husband, the late C. Durham Moore Jr., were the parents of Jimmy Moore, a boy who spent some of his early years in a state institution.

“We wanted someplace that wasn’t ‘putting him away,’” Betty Moore said in 1998. “We wanted a home where parents could go 24 hours a day, where the children were given better treatment than we were capable of providing – where they could learn.”

So they built it. Along with two other couples – the Pierces and the Tuckers – they opened day services for developmentally disabled people at Greenwood Forest Baptist Church in Cary. Then they turned a long-abandoned Catholic orphanage into a model home for some of the area’s profoundly disabled people.

The Tammy Lynn Center – named for the Pierces’ late daughter – today serves about 400 families in Wake County and houses 42 people, with an annual budget of millions of dollars. The center has since moved to a campus in West Raleigh.

Freeman said Betty Moore’s success can be measured not only in numbers but by a change in language.

“She was then, in the 1960s, using language that’s pretty common today in the literature for developmental disabilities – and it’s about living in one’s communities,” said Freeman who was the center’s executive from 1997 to 2012.

Moore believed in “self-determination, to the extent possible – that people should be able to have the things that they want and desire, and the comforts and opportunities that everybody does have,” Freeman said.

“And she saw herself and those around her as being the voice for people who had no language.”

Freeman met the Moores on her first day as the center’s new executive, which coincided with the organization’s annual A Toast to the Triangle fundraiser.

They were “people who you just wanted to be around, and just made you feel like you were calling home,” she said.

Moore was a tiny woman, and she charmed with kindness and a kind of authority – like she always knew what she was talking about. That trait helped her win funding for her mission and change people’s ideas about the differently abled.

Moore lived her last decade at the Glenaire Retirement Community in Cary. Her son Jimmy, who lived at the center, died in 2007. Her husband preceded her in death in 2010.

Moore was a poet and gardener. She was animated by music and sang late into her 80s, as she had as a soloist at Hayes Barton Baptist Church.

Moore, who was born in Shelby, is survived by two children – C. Durham Moore III and Terry Moore-Painter – and two grandchildren, Freeman said. The center likely will announce a public memorial service.

The center also will celebrate the Moores in early August, around the time of Betty Moore’s birthday, with a dedication on its playground. In their honor, the organization aims to raise $91,000 to educate clients and staff.

“We have lost a tremendous community leader,” said Sarah Crawford, director of development and public relations, “but we have so much joy and inspiration in our hearts because of the way that Betty and Durham and our other co-founders transformed services for children and adults in Wake County.”

Kenney: 919-829-4870; Twitter: @KenneyNC

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