Biographical / Historical
Bobby Joe Moon was born in Cleveland, Mississippi, in 1944, the son of Chou Guie Moon, whose name became anglicized as Jew Guie Moon, and Sue Wong, his father’s second wife, the first wife having died.
Since B. J. Moon is proud of his ancestry and has devoted substantial attention to preserving records of how his parents entered the U.S. from China, it is appropriate to summarize their stories of resettlement.
J. G. Moon was born in China in 1899, although his identity papers showed 1898. He arrived for the first time at the Port of San Francisco on September 3, 1908, but was denied admission on account of trachoma, an infectious eye condition. A Chinese Six Companies’ attorney drew up a document which helped Moon gain admission the following year. After returning to China and saving another $1,500 to pay for passage, he arrived at the Port of San Francisco on July 13, 1909, and was finally admitted to the U.S. on August 25, 1909. Settling in the Sacramento area, he attended school for seven months and then began working on farms and ranches, learning to read and write English using newspapers, with farm or ranch owners’ wives tutoring him after dinner. He also worked as a cook for 20 Mule Team Borax Smith’s Tonapah and Tidewater Railroad.
In 1913 J. G. Moon went to work for the Sun On Chong Company, a grocery business in Old Sacramento, joining several people with whom he remained in contact as the years passed, one of them being a cousin, Jew Han Lett (J. H. Lett). Intending to start his family in China in the Gor Doi Long Village, in 1920 he applied for the coveted “Merchant” status in order to be guaranteed re-entry to the U.S. He received the classification in February 1921 and immediately left for China through the Port of San Francisco. Before returning on October 12, 1922, he married Fong Shee, who gave birth to their first son in April 1923 in the Village. Several years later J. G. Moon moved to Boyle, Mississippi, to join cousin Jew Doy Lin and J. H. Lett with other Village cousins to form Joe Brothers Company. The business had stores in the Mississippi Delta towns of Boyle, Cleveland, and Shaw.
Between May 30, 1931, and November 7, 1932, J, G. Moon was in China again, having returned to build a house in the New Village, the house that Bobby Moon visited in 2000. The elder Moon was in China again from March 2, 1935 to June 9, 1937. His first wife having died, he married Wong Sui Yeung (anglicized as Sue Wong) in June 1936. He succeeded in arranging for the immigration of Sue Wong and their two daughters as well as their first cousin Joe Y. Sing (15 years old) via Hong Kong and the Port of Seattle on February 11, 1939. They reached Cleveland, Mississippi, in February 1939, traveling by train from Seattle through Chicago. A son, Roy, was born in December 1939 in Boyle, and Bobby Moon in 1944 in Cleveland.
Bobby Joe Moon attended Cleveland High School in Mississippi, then studied accounting and graduated from Mississippi State University, class of 1965. In Houston, he worked for Metro Transit, as Manager of Audit, COntracts and Internal Quality Assurance.
In 1993 Bobby Moon became active in publicly challenging the method used by the Houston Independent School District to distribute spaces for students in programs for the gifted and talented. Because these programs had originated as part of the school district’s response to federal desegregation requirements, race was initially a dominant factor in determining which students would be selected. The initial ratio was 30 percent black, 30 percent Hispanic, and 40 percent white or other races. When the Moons went through the testing and application process for their daughter, Laura Anne, to be considered for the gifted and talented program, she was not chosen. Bobby Moon was quoted in the Houston Post (May 25, 1993, p. A-10) saying, “We got a letter saying she qualified, but that there weren’t any spaces open. We were lumped in with whites. I know my daughter would have had a better chance if she was considered a minority.” He added, “I’d like to be called what we are—Asian Americans—but beyond that I’d just like to see things shake down more fairly. It’s really frustrating that our racial classification is holding her back while her intellect is pushing her forward.”
Subsequently two other parents sued the school district, charging that their children were denied entry in the gifted and talented program based on their race. In April 1997, the school district appointed a special Peer Examination, Evaluation, and Redesign committee which in July recommended that race be replaced as a criterion for selection with a matrix including test scores, teacher and parent recommendations, grades, and overcoming hardships. Research took place to determine how each of these factors should be weighted, and by November it was announced that the new process would be in place for the selection of students for the 1998-99 school year.
Bobby Moon traveled to China for the first time in 2000, April 22 through May 7. Among the places visited was his father’s home village, Gor Doi Long, in an area about thirty miles northwest of Taicheng in South China. With the help of a Chow family tree made in 1983 by Moon’s cousin T. Jack Chow of Cleveland, Mississippi, a villager led him to a cousin who, in turn, led him to another cousin. Together the two cousins led Moon and his fellow travelers (a party of four, including his wife, Jennie) to a compound of four homes constructed by the villagers who had gone to the U.S. and returned to build the compound known as the New Village. He found that none of the New Village homes were occupied and were locked. A fact he found interesting is that these homes are still considered the property of the respective owners in America and the property and contents are left for the most part undisturbed.
A key to his father’s home was obtained from the village chief. The most important outcome of his getting inside was that on a second story wall he found a framed watercolor portrait of his father, as he wrote, “nearly perfectly preserved at an age that I had never known him to look!” Moon succeeded in convincing the person with the key that he had legitimate claim to the painting, and he proceeded to take it from the wall and bring it back to Houston.