In 1898 physician Aaron McDuffie Moore (1863-1923), along with his friend John Merrick and five other black businessmen, established what would become one of the nation’s largest and most profitable black-owned businesses, North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company. The “Company with a Soul and a Service” was an outgrowth of Durham’s Royal Knights of King David, a fraternal benefit society that had provided health and life insurance to the African-American community.
Born in 1863 to free parents and raised in Columbus County, Moore, a graduate of Shaw University’s Leonard Medical School, became Durham’s first black physician in 1888. His considerable influence extended into most sectors of the city’s black community. Beyond providing essential medical expertise to the Mutual, he founded Lincoln Hospital, the city’s first hospital for African Americans, and served as its superintendent. In 1913 he borrowed a room in the basement of White Rock Baptist Church, where he taught Sunday School, to set up a small library of 798 volumes, leading in 1916 to the opening of the Durham Colored Library.
P. Preston Reynolds, M.D., Ph.D., and historian of Durham’s Watts and Lincoln hospitals, writes of Dr. Moore and physician Stanford L. Warren: “Respected by white and African American citizens, these two physicians created opportunities for biracial cooperation and racial tolerance unusual for their time. Both men effectively used their intellect, professional reputations, and person connections to the wealthy establishment in Durham to build institutions of public worth and, in those enormous acts of service, created a lasting legacy.”