Services scheduled for former McLennan County DA who died at 98

Thomas Moore, Jr. (Funeral home photo)
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WACO, Texas (KWTX) Services have been scheduled for Thomas Moore, Jr., former McLennan County District Attorney, state legislator and America’s first real TV lawyer.

Visitation will be from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Grace Gardens Funeral Home at 8220 Woodway Dr.

A graveside service will be at 11 a.m. Saturday in Oakwood Cemetery after which a reception will be held at St. Alban’s Episcopal Church at 305 North 30th

In the event of bad weather, the service will also be held at St. Alban’s.

Moore died Sunday morning at a local hospital.

A local defense lawyer notified others that Moore passed away around 3 a.m. at a local hospital.

Funeral arrangements still were pending Sunday.

Moore, 98, served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946 and was elected McLennan County District Attorney from 1952 to 1959.

While Moore was serving as DA, the judge in the 54th District Court decided to allow a local television station to broadcast a murder trial live, “from gavel to gavel”, the first trial televised live in the United States.

Moore prosecuted Harry Washburn, of San Angelo, and the jury returned a verdict of guilty in connection with the car bombing death of Washburn’s mother-in-law.

Moore went on to serve in the Texas Legislature and quickly became known for his sharp wit.

In 1971, he introduced legislation on April 1 as a prank to prove his colleagues usually didn’t read what they voted on.

The legislation commended Boston Strangler Albert de Salvo “for his noted activities and unconventional techniques involving population control and applied psychology.”

After the legislation passed, Moore made his point to the House and recalled the legislation, but the issue stuck and Moore was remembered for his Boston Strangler Prank.

Moore also was known as a member of the Legislature’s Dirty Thirty, a group of members who stood up against state leadership during the Sharpstown Scandal that eventually saw both the sitting governor and lieutenant governor named in indictments.

Moore, who still was practicing law well into his 90s, had a reputation for not sending bills to his clients.

His wife Robbie said at one point Moore’s attitude was “if they’re going to pay, they’ll pay.”

Natalie, Moore’s first wife, died in 1982 after 39 years of marriage.

The couple raised three children, Margaret Oliver, a former Travis county attorney, Tim Moore, a prominent criminal defense lawyer in Fort Worth; and Elizabeth, who lives in Waco.

Moore and Robbie married in 1982.

It was in the early days of television when Moore and Bill Simpson, a young news editor at KWTX-TV, were talking about televising a trial sometime.

The opportunity presented itself in December 1955, when a murder case involving Harry L. Washburn was sent to Waco from San Angelo because of intense media attention in Tom Green County.

The case, Moore and Simpson thought, was made for television, and Judge D.W. Bartlett agreed to allow a TV camera in the balcony of 54th State District Court.

“Old Washburn had tried to hire every thug in the Houston area to kill her, and they were all characters out of Damon Runyon, including a lady wrestler known as the Panther Lady,” Moore said.

“The jury never knew the camera was there because we didn’t want them to be affected by it, but we kept the camera on from the time they rapped it to order to the time we adjourned, with no ads and they televised the whole thing.”

Moore got a conviction against Washburn, and he was sentenced to life in prison.