James Moore, Lenoir's only black police officer, tries to set an example
Sgt. James Moore didn’t always want to be a cop.
He started his career, like many in Lenoir do, at a Broyhill Furniture plant.
But when furniture started its slowdown, he knew he needed another option. So he enrolled in Wilkes Community College’s Basic Law Enforcement Training program and, in 1994, took a job with the Lenoir Police Department.
It’s a role he enjoyed immediately.
“My goal was to be an influence on the community,” he said. “You know, be a role model for the younger kids coming up. So it’s been rewarding.”
Moore fills a few other roles, too. He’s an associate minister at Christ Church of Lenoir. He’s a student, working on his master’s in Christian ministry at Liberty University.
And he’s the only black police officer in Lenoir – and one of only a few black law enforcement officers in the county.
But that’s not something he thinks about much. It’s not a big deal for his colleagues in the department, either.
“I can’t tell no difference,” he said. “There’s no special treatment. I’m treated like everybody else. I don’t even think they really realize it.”
And it’s not why Moore wanted to be a policeman.
For him, it’s all about people.
Moore loves people. Old people, young people, everyone in between. He loves his family and he loves people he doesn’t know.
The bright spots of his days are times when he can serve as a mentor for kids in the community. It’s one of the first things he loved about police work: helping kids.
“When I first started out, sometimes you’d pull up and they hadn’t eaten breakfast or nothing,” he said. “You’d get to go out and give them something to eat.”
His love for people is what led him into the ministry, too. He grew up in church – sometimes dragged there by his mother and grandmother, who said they didn’t care how late he stayed up at night, he was getting up and getting into a pew in the morning.
But he didn’t know he wanted to preach until he went along on a hospital visit with a friend who was a pastor.
“He turns to me and he said, ‘You know, if you become a pastor one day, this is what you’ll be doing,'” Moore said. “'This will be a part of your job.'”
That’s when he knew.
In his work life and his personal life – where he has served as an Optimist-league football and basketball coach – Moore tries to be a mentor and a positive example for kids who need it most.
Sometimes it doesn’t work out.
“I had one particular kid that I coached him from a kid all the way up to adulthood, and he winds up going to a prison,” Moore said. “He wound up in prison. You know, his thing was, ‘My mama went to prison, my daddy went to prison, so I’m not scared to go.’”
That was hard for Moore to see.
But sometimes, kids will come back and tell him that if he hadn’t crossed their path, they’d be in trouble instead of heading toward success.
That makes it worthwhile.
“Most of the kids from when I first started, they’ve grown up and done chose their path,” Moore said. “Some did good, some did not so good. But the ones that did good, you can look back and say, ‘Hey, you know, I had a hand in that.’”
Moore is soft-spoken. He’s a careful speaker. And he obviously thinks more about others than he thinks about himself.
When asked if he’d like to say anything more about himself for this profile, he only said one thing: He’d like the story to mention his wife and family.
Moore’s wife’s name is Tilynn Thomas. They’ve been married since 2011, and they have four kids between them.
He loves them dearly, he said.