FREMONT — Bobby Moore has been described as a small-town police chief whose main interest was keeping the peace.
Moore could be found at places like Doc’s Hitching Post, now The Bull Pen, having breakfast or lunch just like any of the other locals. He just went about his business, whether it was being the town’s marshal, the building inspector or a local resident, first in town, then at Lake Minifenokee then back in town for his final days.
Of course, Moore wasn’t like the locals. He was born in Mississippi and still had a southern drawl, despite after having spent his entire 20-year career in Washington, D.C., serving as a homicide police detective before retiring and moving with his wife, Barbara, to Fremont, where he would eventually take the position of town marshal.
Even though he was known as a nice guy, he also had a reputation for being too lenient on people and that he liked to drink.
If you saw Moore in town, he likely was not in uniform. He didn’t always wear one. He just kind of blended into the crowd. No sidearm, none of the other trappings that make one stand out as a police officer.
Perhaps that was from his detective days, or the administrative duties he held with the town.
“He was always out and around. At that time, I think we only had two deputies at the time,” said F. Mayo Sanders, a longtime Fremont resident who served in administration at Fremont Community Schools and Head Start, was on the Fremont Town Council and served as a Steuben County commissioner and council member before finally retiring from his decades in public service in 2014.
“He was available and was always available. It seemed like he was available 7 days a week and 24 hours a day,” Sanders said.
Moore blended in early and did it well, Sanders said. His presence at various places in town were like a barometer of what was going on. For example, Sanders said he would often stop at Skelton’s 66 on the corner of Toledo and South Wayne for a cup of coffee and maybe at Tom’s Donut on his way to Fremont Elementary School and you could find Moore there with the locals, catching up on town gossip. Other times Sanders would just drive by, but Moore’s presence was known, and it was comforting, Sanders said.
“You would see his police car out there and you knew everything was right in town,” Sanders said.
But make no mistake about it. Moore was ready in the event of trouble in the small berg of Fremont. When not in uniform, he kept a gun strapped to his leg, hidden under his pants, and of course, he had his identification and badge on him in the event he needed to let people know he was the law.
Moore’s attorney, Allen Stout, compared him to an Andy of Mayberry kind of police officer. He was small town, even though his previous outpost, his career, was the nation’s capitol.
In Fremont, there would be no big homicides and murder cases, until 1988. And while Fremont operated then and still operates a lucrative town court, Moore’s intent was not to make the town a speed trap, Stout said.
“Bobby was perceived as the Andy of Mayberry type of officer,” Stout said.
Moore wanted Fremont to be safe without creating a police state, he added.
Tom Robison, a deputy at the time of Moore’s death, agreed that he was all about keeping the peace, but kept it at that.
“I would say that’s true, but he was no Andy. He didn’t like to arrest people. It’s hard to arrest people for the things that you do,” Robison said, referencing Moore’s reported affinity for the drink.
“I guess the worst was his drinking,” Robison said. “Besides Bobby’s drinking he was a nice guy. He had worked out East so long he wanted to be a Mayberry kind of guy, but sometimes things get in the way.”
Robison, who retired from the Fremont Police Department at the rank of chief deputy after 27 years of service six years ago, said perhaps Moore’s biggest weakness was his leniency with people, but he didn’t want to say too much about his time working with Moore.
“Well, I really can’t share a whole lot because there’s a lot that I know that I think people don’t need to know. I liked him. He was a kind person, (but) he had some problems.”
Because of his experience in Washington, Robison said he learned much from Moore.
“I learned a lot from him. He had a lot of experience,” Robison said.
In addition to being the town marshal, Moore had other administrative duties with town government, like building and planning.
“Many of the people who worked for the town at that time had two or three job descriptions,” Sanders said.
Sanders said Moore was also helpful to the schools, providing any assistance that might be needed.
“He did a lot of things for us at the school,” Sanders said. “He was always available.”
Like many in Fremont, the deaths of Barbara Moore and Bobby Moore are perplexing to Robison.
“The whole situation doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.