Remembering the Moretons

Published 12:00 pm Wednesday, January 20, 2016

When I was walking into the office Tuesday morning, EAGLE photographer Bruce Newman stopped me and asked if I knew that Al and Becky Moreton had been killed in a car wreck in Simpson County.

I felt like I had been punched in the gut; it was news that really hit all of us at the EAGLE hard. Becky picked up her paper at the EAGLE on a daily basis instead of having it delivered. We all felt like she was a part of our staff and she would always give us her advice on what we needed in the paper. Most of the time, politics would be in the forefront of our discussions.

Most people remember the Moretons as the man in the black suit and his wife who walked everywhere in Oxford. They were the idea of the perfect couple to me, always walking arm and arm and enjoying the beauty that Oxford has to offer. It didn’t matter what the weather was doing, they were always walking. She encouraged so many on our staff to walk on our lunch breaks to get fresh air and be healthier.

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Jessica Harwell, office manager of the EAGLE, treasured her memories of Becky Moreton.

“Becky had the most wonderful stories and was so passionate about Oxford and making life better here. Seeing her on a daily basis, I enjoyed her stories and talking about the positive changes in our community such as adding crosswalks on University Avenue,” Harwell said. “She was the type of person that I always strived to be: opinionated, passionate, strong, loving and independent. For the past three years, I feel blessed to have had the honor to meet her.”

My memory of Al will be what a wonderful husband and father he was. How many of us can see Al walking down the street on Saturday morning with fresh flowers from Oxford Floral that he purchased for Becky. David Naron, owner of Oxford Floral, said Al had been purchasing flowers every Saturday for 35 years that he knew about.

Moreton was a former prosecutor in the U.S. Attorney’s office for more than 37 years and served as the U.S. attorney from 1993-1997. Ralph Dean, who worked with Moreton, said, “Al was a lawyer’s lawyer. He loved the law and everything about it. He wasn’t one in the courtroom to shout and scream but always seemed to win a case before the defense ever saw it coming.

His idea of a Sunday afternoon involved reading briefs instead of reading a book. He was a man of the highest integrity.”

John Hailman, who worked with Moreton from 1974-2007, described Moreton as his best friend. Hailman’s latest book, “Return to Guntown,” was dedicated to Al even over Moreton’s objection.

“Everyone, if they had a problem with a case, knew they could always refer to Al’s ‘Black Book’ regarding a similar brief or case,” Hailman said. “He had written in this book in small writing about any case or legal brief that he ever read.”

The loss of the Moretons was felt outside of our community as well. The Mississippi Legislature formally adjourned Tuesday in memory of Al and Becky Moreton. “(It is) tragic and beautiful,” local state Rep. Jay Hughes said in an email message. “A key piece of the fabric of Oxford disappeared with them.”

The Moretons had two children, Beth and Elliot, who were such an important part of their life. As Hailman said, “Al and Becky were so opposite that they complemented each other in so many ways.”

I know that God works in mysterious ways, but it’s clear he knew that having both of them together in heaven was the best thing for two people who loved each other so much.

Tim Phillips is publisher of The Oxford Eagle. Contact him at