“For the Third Year in Four Years:” Mrs. Moore and the NHS Debate Team

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

In 1927, a young teacher by the name of Mrs. Alma Moore, began work at Newton High School.  For the next thirty-nine years she successfully developed and led the Speech and Debate teams of Newton High to state and national competitions.


Alma Moore, 1931.

March 1931: Newton was filled with excitement.  The Newton High basketball team was undefeated and headed to the state championships. Perhaps, it was easy to overlook another successful group of Newton High students, the debate team. A small notice on the front page of the Weekly Newtonian paper reminded the students that for the “third year in four years that Newton has entered the state in debate.” They team would compete on March 20 and 21.

Weekly Newtonian.

Weekly Newtonian, 11 March 1931.

The NHS debate team consisting of Duane “Spec” Baird, Pat Hogan, Florine “Flo” Rankin and Robert G. Rayburn was successful winning the 1931 state title.


1931 Debate State Championship Team (lt-rt): Duane Baird, Pat Hogan, Mrs. Alma Moore, Florine Rankin, Robert Rayburn.


NHS 1931 Debate Team.

A dedicated teacher, Alma Moore was born in McPherson County, Kansas to Emery & Mollie Garst Anderson 23 April 1899. She married Leland P. Moore 10 June 1924.  She was a graduate of McPherson College, McPherson, Ks and completed post  graduate work at the University of Illinois, University of Kansas, University of Southern California and University of Wisconsin. In addition to teaching at Newton High, she taught at McPherson College and Wichita State University.


“Practice Makes Perfect” NHS 1947 Debate Team. Those identified: Robert Logan standing far left; Lee Rieff leaning over table; Gladys Schmidt seated at center of photo, Alma Moore is at her desk.

The 1931 State Championship was the first of many for the NHS Debate Team. Under the leadership of Mrs. Moore,  the team had seven state championship teams, establishing Newton High as a force to be reckoned with in debate competitions. Three orators went to National Competition with two winning the title.


Mr. Cowger, State Adjutant , American Legion, with gold metal winner in oratory, Albert Zavala, NHS Debate Team, Alma Moore and unidentified man, 1959.



Alma Moore with Lanny Unruh, debate student, 1960.

Alma Moore retired from teaching in 1966 and died in McPherson, Ks  in February 1979.

Of the 1931 Debate Team, one student’s success in oratory took him all the way to international competition.  Our post next week will follow the Robert G. Rayburn as he represented not only Newton, but the entire state of Kansas.


  • Scrapbook, 1930-31, NHS.  HCHM Archives Newton High School Collection, Box 1 A FF 29.
  • Weekly Newtonian 11 March 1931.
  • Weekly Newtonian: Senior Edition, 13 May 1931.
  • Weekly Newtonian, 23 September 1931.
  • U.S. Census, 1930, 1940.
  • Newton Kansan 27 February 1979.
  • U.S. Social Security Death Index for Alma Moore, February 1979.
  • “State Debate Champions.” Kansas State High School Activities Association Championship History, 1908-2015 at www.kshsaa.org.