Jan 24, 2017
Obituary: James Moore

James N. Moore, who in 1964 established the fruit breeding program within the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, died Jan. 22. He was 85.

“Jim had a passion for horticulture and was a gifted teacher,” said Mark Cochran, head of the division. “He leaves a tremendous legacy, not only on farms, orchards and vineyards around the world, but also in the students he taught, who will carry on his work for decades to come.”

“Moore was a giant in his profession, and he laid the foundation of the extremely successful fruit breeding program which is today one of our premier research programs,” said Clarence Watson, director of the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station.

Born in Vilonia and raised in Plumerville, Moore served in the Air Force following high school and met his wife, Janita “Jan” Fitzgerald of Morrilton soon after discharge. Encouraged by his mother, Moore attained an associate’s degree from Arkansas Tech University in 1954, followed in 1956 by a bachelor’s degree in horticulture and in 1957 a master’s in horticulture, both from the University of Arkansas.

Moore earned his Ph.D. from Rutgers University in 1961. His time in New Jersey was pivotal. There he worked with Fred Hough, leader of Rutgers’ fruit breeding program, who had already achieved national renown within horticulture circles for his work on apples, peaches and strawberries. It was at Rutgers he met Jules Janick, now the James Troop distinguished professor of horticulture at Purdue. It was the beginning of a collaboration that would last a lifetime.

“Jim was a great horticulturist and a great man and will be sorely missed,” Janick said. “I will say that the work he started and is being continued by John Clark will continue to have a tremendous impact on American fruit production.”

Clark, a distinguished professor of horticulture for the University of Arkansas, inherited the fruit breeding program from Moore.

From 1961-63, Moore worked for USDA at Beltsville, Maryland, as a fruit breeder.

“Jim loved to tell the story of his choosing to come back to Arkansas, leaving the USDA breeding position. He made his decision, and in late 1963 went in to tell his USDA boss he was moving home,” Clark said.

“His boss said, ‘Jim, if you go back to Arkansas, you will never be heard from again!’ Well, one can say that his coming back to Arkansas was one of the most important moves in small fruit breeding, not only in Arkansas but the region, nationally and internationally,” Clark said. “And, he was definitely heard from again!”

Moore’s work

 Moore began his faculty appointment at Arkansas in 1964. He developed a broad breeding program that encompassed blackberries, strawberries, peaches and grapes, and added blueberries later in his career. His achievements in fruit breeding were monumental, with more than 50 varieties released from his efforts. Among the most important were Cardinal strawberry, Navaho and Shawnee blackberries, Reliance and Mars grapes, Bonfire peach and Ozarkblue blueberry.

Although he retired from leadership of the Arkansas fruit breeding program at the end of 1996, his genetic contributions have continued to result in new varieties – with several being named for him, including Prime-Jim blackberry, Norman blueberry, GoldJim peach and Amoore Sweet nectarine.

In further use of breeding materials from his career efforts, he and colleague Clark developed a grape with a unique flavor combination and much improved, firm texture. This grape selection, although not adapted to the winter cold and summer rains of Arkansas, was used as a mother plant in a hybridization in table grape breeding in California and resulted in the innovation known as Cotton Candy. Now entering the national and international market, Cotton Candy is unlike any other table grape in flavor, with the flavor coming from the Arkansas parent.

“This and many other genetic improvements are clear reflections of Jim’s dream of making major contributions to society in his genetic improvements,” Clark said.

A prolific writer, Moore had more than 300 professional publications in his career. He was internationally known for his contribution as co-editor of a series of reference books on fruit breeding, including “Advances in Fruit Breeding” in 1975 and the trilogy series “Fruit Breeding” in 1996. Moore was an accomplished speaker, giving hundreds of presentations to grower and professional meetings in his career. He served as president of the American Society for Horticultural Science and American Pomological Society, as well as numerous department, Division of Agriculture and university committees.

Moore received many awards in his career, but for all his successes in the orchard and vineyard, his real love was in growing students. Moore taught at both the undergraduate and graduate levels, averaging six to 10 graduate students each year. He received high ratings from students, to whom he was both approachable and unassuming.

“He loved to work with students on their various research projects and inspire them to make a difference in their careers,” Clark said. “This inspiration continues today, as many of these continue in fruit research and expanding on the ideas he shared as an adviser.”

Moore was preceded in death by his parents, Jimmy L. and Mittie (Terrell) Moore, brothers Vancil and Billy, sister Geraldine and granddaughter Lauren Millican.

He is survived by his wife, Jan Fitzgerald Moore, daughter Pam Millican (Scott) and grandchildren Ryan Tharp (Amy) and Hilary Millican, son David Moore (Diana) and grandchildren Chris Riley and Shawn Riley (Janie), great-grandchildren Elliott Tharp and Ethan Riley and several nieces and nephews.

A funeral is set for 2 p.m. Jan. 28, at First Baptist Church in Fayetteville, with interment at Fairview Memorial Gardens, 1728 E. Mission Blvd. Viewing is at Moore’s Chapel, 206 W. Center St., from 6-8 p.m Jan. 27.

Memorials may be made to the University of Arkansas Foundation for the James N. Moore Fellowship, c/o Department of Horticulture, 316 Plant Sciences Bldg., Fayetteville, AR 72701.

– Mary Hightower, University of Arkansas

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P.O. Box 128
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