Roger Moore and Charlie Soong
By Susan Taylor Block
Roger Moore (1838-1900), a 3rd-great grandson of King Roger Moore of Orton Plantation, North Carolina, spent most of his days at 103 North Water Street, where he operated the Roger Moore Brick Company. It was a bustling part of town during that era, with town business to the east, and heavy maritime activity to the west. He came in contact with all sorts of people, from those in fine business dress to seamen in tatters.
In 1880, Roger Moore met a 14 year-old youth from Hainan Island, China named Soong Chiao-chun. Charlie, as he would come to be called, signed up with the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service, through the U. S. Coast Guard. He arrived in Wilmington aboard the cutter Colfax. One of the ship’s officers, a Methodist, introduced Col. Moore to the young man, and Moore was immediately impressed by his intelligence. When Col. Moore learned that Charlie wanted to better himself by being released from his job as a “mess boy,” the Colonel instituted steps which brought about this desired change.
Charlie then became a resident of Wilmington and attended the “Fifth Street Methodist Church” for the first time, with Roger Moore. He introduced the boy to the Reverend T. Page Ricaud, who baptized him.
Charlie told Col. Moore he wished he could be set free from Coast Guard duty, and Col. Moore soon arranged his release. Soong found a place to live and, apparently, work. Col. Moore suggested the two of them attend church services at Fifth Avenue Methodist. The young man absorbed the words of minister T. Page Ricaud, just as he had a gentle evangelistic message the officer had shared with him aboard the Colfax. Charlie converted to Christianity, and was baptized July 7, 1880.
Moore, worried that Charlie’s brilliance would be dulled without challenging studies, contacted friend Julian Shakespeare Carr, in Durham. Carr was another strong Methodist. Both were members of the Third N.C. Cavalry during the Civil War. They became fast friends immediately, and stayed close throughout life. Carr, an industrialist and philanthropist, was go-getter. In almost no time, Charlie Soong was living with the Carr family and attending Trinity College, now Duke University. Carr underwrote all costs, and would later send him to the theological seminary at Vanderbilt.
Historian Archibald Henderson was fascinated with the idea of Soong’s smoldering potential being fanned into flames by fine schooling. “After mature reflection, I am convinced that Julian S. Carr’s greatest gift to the world was not the site for Trinity College, or the Carr Building to the University of North Carolina, but the education of Soong Chiao-chun,” wrote Henderson.
Soong later returned to China where he established a publishing firm and allied himself with Dr. Sun Yat-sen. He continued the pattern of church stewardship he learned in America by giving a portion of his income to evangelical causes annually. He was founder of the Soong Dynasty, yet he always made time to correspond with those who helped him in the United States. Louis T. Moore noted that Soong continued to write to his father, Col. Moore, and Julian Carr.
(A special thank-you to Ben Steelman of the Star News for notifying readers that Michael Feng, Charlie Soong’s great-grandson will be baptized today, August 30, 2015, at Fifth Avenue Methodist Church, in Wilmington. I am honored to take Margaret “Peggy” Moore Perdew to the service. She is one of Roger Moore’s granddaughters, and is a daughter of Wilmington historian Louis Toomer Moore, who supplied some of the information above.)
During his World War II-era tenure as Dean of Grace Cathedral in San Francisco, Thomas Henry Wright, a native of Wilmington, performed an average of eight to ten weddings a day, primarily hastily planned generic services for sailors. However, one wedding he performed was anything but routine. Charlie Soong, Madame Chiang Kai-Shek’s brother, decided he wanted to be married in Grace Cathedral.
“There was such planning,” recounted Bishop Wright. “There were big committees and little committees and all the proceedings were very polite and took many hours. I performed the religious part of the wedding first and then the state wedding proceeded outside the rail. The church documents were signed at the altar and the state documents, outside the rail. LIFE magazine photographers were all over the place. The crowd took up the whole cathedral: 5,000 seats. Afterwards, there was a big reception and I was placed in the seat of honor. I delivered a blessing in English and they clapped. We were served twelve courses of food.”
 Moore Family Papers. Louis T. Moore correspondence, June 17, 1960, with Coronet Magazine. http://www.starnewsonline.com/article/20150828/ARTICLES/150829690?p=2&tc=pg  Archibald Henderson. “General Julian S. Carr: Greathearted Citizen.” Addresses and Addenda of Centennial Observance of His Birth.” Louis T. Moore to Lewis W. Gillenson, Coronet Magazine. June 17, 1960.