Many Are Grieving In Loss Of Friend
How many times do we think, "I wish I had..." done something or said something before it was too late?
I thought today that I never did tell Mal Moore the story about my memory of our first meeting.
In the summer of 1970 Charley Thornton hired me to be his assistant in what was known then as the Sports Publicity Office at The University of Alabama. Charley took me around and introduced me to everyone in the building, including Mal, who was a young assistant coach. Later I was wandering around on my own in the athletics department offices, which were all on the second floor of what was then Memorial Coliseum. Mal came out of his office and asked me if I wanted to go to lunch, which I did. We went to Druid Drugs where I was introduced to the egg sandwich and to Mr. Harrison, who owned it.
When I was back in the office and told Charley of my lunch, I added, "Mal Moore is one smart guy," or something like that.
That opinion never changed.
We were friends for a long time. Even when he was gone, to Notre Dame and to pro football with the Cardinals, we stayed in touch.
Mal had a lot of friends; close friends. I have thought of them today. Paul Bryant, Jr., and Mal were as close as brothers. I know Paul is grieving.
Dr. John Morgan of West Point, Ga., was one of Mal's recruiters in the days when alumni could help in that task. It was hard to share the news with Dr. Morgan today.
Elizabeth and Mike Teal and Bill Poole were friends Mal could be comfortable with.
No one could be more loyal to a man than Judy Tanner, Mal's assistant as athletics director.
Mal loved to talk to Ken Fowler, who has an extraordinary knowledge of Alabama football and great acumen for the business side of things that Mal learned so well.
And dozens and dozens of others. Hundreds, really. Thousands, maybe.
Those who knew him well came to realize that he didn't share much information, but he asked a lot of questions. He once told me that Coach Bryant had instilled that in him. "He told me not to tell what I knew, not to try to show people how much I knew, but to get as much information as I could from them."
I was never surprised to get a call from him to get an opinion. (I'm sure he called many others, not just me.) One day we were sitting down to our regular Thursday lunch at Cypress Inn, where Mal joined us on very rare occasions, when my phone rang. He wanted to know who was at lunch. I told him C.M. Newton, John Bostick, Chuck Sittason, Chuck Norwood, Spencer Burchfield, and Ken Fowler – all friends of him --, and invited him to come join us. "That sounds like too many troublemakers," he said.
Mal had a practice of not bragging. Coach Bryant (again) had told him, "Don't tell people what you've done. Do a good job and they'll tell you."
Also like Coach Bryant, Mal loved The University of Alabama and did all he could to make it better.
I was fortunate to have many private times with Mal. He enjoyed having company, particularly company, I believe, who would share a glass of Scotch or wine and a cigar and talk about the good times we had under Coach Paul Bryant. When you walked into his house there was a small table in the foyer with a copy of my book, "What It Means To Be Crimson Tide." He told me he had never read the section on him, and I told him I didn't believe that.
Mal enjoyed coming to our place at Yellow Creek, where he had spent time in his younger days at the home of one of our neighbors, Rufus Deal.
He enjoyed a small restaurant near our home, Kozy's, and we met there from time to time. One night Lynne and I were there with a business associate from Washington. Mal had been in the back, and when he came out he sat down and joined us for dessert. That impressed our visitor.
I also thought today of Charlotte, his wife who had such a tragic end to her life. Charlotte was a friend of my wife, Lynne. Although she was not aware of it for many years, no woman had a more devoted husband than did Charlotte.
Mal was one of the greatest story-tellers I have ever known. In public, his tales were primarily self-deprecating, his playing days or coaching on the sidelines with his coach, Paul Bryant, in his ear.
He told me once that his father in Dozier would listen to Alabama games on the radio and afterwards would get in his pickup truck and drive down to the local diner and announce, "Mal and 'em won another one."
Steve Townsend, a former Alabama sports information director who has been very close to Mal, has chronicled Mal Moore's life and will probably write a book on Mal. I told Mal that I thought the name of the book should be "Mal And 'em."
The "'em"s would be impressive. So was Mal Moore. I can't begin to describe how much I will miss him.
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