College Sports

Phenix City native recalls being Auburn’s first black cheerleader

Phenix City native Linwood Moore became Auburn University’s first black cheerleader in 1974
Phenix City native Linwood Moore became Auburn University’s first black cheerleader in 1974

Phenix City native Linwood Moore wasn’t a cheerleader at Central High School, where he graduated in 1971, but three years later, he became the first black cheerleader at Auburn University.

“I was very active in high school,” Moore told the Ledger-Enquirer in a phone interview Friday, “so my goal as to continue being active in college as well.”

Moore was among the honorees during the Sept. 7-9 Black Alumni Weekend at Auburn. He lives in Upper Marlboro, Md., in suburban Washington, D.C., where he retired as associate chief of pharmacy for the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

He was vice president of Central’s senior class the first year the previously all-white school integrated with the all-black South Girard, now a junior high, so he was used to breaking racial barriers. And when he saw how much fun the all-white cheerleading team was having, he felt compelled to try out and figured, “Maybe I could break that barrier as well.”

After failing to make the team the first year he tried out, he was selected as the first alternate the second year and again the third year. In spring 1974, one of the male cheerleaders quit, leaving a slot open for him.

Auburn’s cheerleaders performed as six male-female pairs, along with one person on the microphone leading the cheers. When the team’s co-captains visited his dorm room, they told Moore the alumni wouldn’t like seeing a black male paired with a white female. So the only position left for him was leading the cheers on the microphone.

He immediately agreed.

“If this is what it takes to make history,” Moore said, “then I’ll go ahead and take it.”

From his first practice through his last game, the female cheerleaders welcomed him and were friendly, although the male cheerleaders were “more distant,” Moore said. But he never received racial resistance from fans during games.

“Even when we went on the road, they responded positively,” he said. “There were no negative experiences.”

Moore added, “I can’t say it surprised me, but I would not have been surprised if it happened.”

All SEC football teams had black players by then, he said, and Alabama had one black cheerleader and Florida had two.

His favorite memory as a cheerleader was the 1974 game against Alabama.

“It was my first Iron Bowl,” he said. “I remember the extremely large crowd at Legion Field in Birmingham. I remember how excited everybody was.”

His worst cheerleading memory comes from the Auburn men’s basketball game at Tennessee, where a fight broke out between the teams.

“We’re under the goal, and it looks like the fans will pour out onto the court and we’d be caught in the middle of it,” he said. “It was a very tense moment.”

Moore cheered for only one season of football and basketball because he wanted to focus on his studies in his final year of pharmacy school. In fact, he said, Auburn honored him during Black Alumni Weekend not for his cheerleading but for his careers in pharmacy and the military, which includes 10 years active duty and retiring as a colonel in the U.S. Army Reserve.

“It really had nothing to do with the cheerleading,” Moore said, although he did lead the alumni in the War Eagle cheer at the awards banquet.

But the cheerleading did have something to do with his pharmacist and military careers, he said.

“It certainly helped me with confidence,” he said. “It certainly helped me with perseverance.”

He hopes his example will motivate others.

“Young people, they need to understand that self-discipline and perseverance are character traits that will serve them well as they move forward in life,” he said. “Decisions they make today will impact their lives down the road.”

Moore is grateful for his time at Auburn and the honor he received.

“It means a lot,” he said. “I’m proud to have graduated from Auburn University. I take the name of Auburn everywhere I go. I’m happy they thought enough of me to recognize me for my achievements.”

Mark Rice, 706-576-6272, @MarkRiceLE.