As the mysterious masked man astride his fabled stallion Silver, he embodied all that was brave and honorable, a hero whose sense of justice made him a national icon.
And even when he wasn’t portraying the Lone Ranger, Clayton Moore embodied the same ideals as his most famous role, said friends and fans who attended his memorial service Sunday. The actor died Dec. 28 of a heart attack at age 85.
“We’re all here to honor someone we all loved,” said producer Rob Word, before a packed audience of more than 200 at the Autry Museum of Western Heritage in Griffith Park, while a couple of hundred additional fans gathered outside.
Inside the auditorium, longtime friends took turns speaking as an image of a smiling Moore sporting his trademark white cowboy hat was projected on a screen.
Outside, fans huddled under overcast skies around a simultaneous broadcast on a small television set. The crowd was full of those who arrived in cowboy hats, bolo ties and fringed clothing.
Near the entrance, about a dozen officers on horseback from the Los Angeles Police Department’s mounted unit stood sentry.
“There were many heroes in my childhood,” among them, the Cisco Kid and Will Rogers, said Johnny Crawford, who had appeared in “Lone Ranger” television episodes as a child actor and who starred in “The Rifleman” television series.
“They all stood for wonderful things. But there was only one Lone Ranger.
“There was something special about the Lone Ranger"--and there was something special about Moore as well, Crawford said. “He never let you down. Clayton was always a gentleman, down to earth, always friendly, upbeat and full of energy. There’ll never be anyone like him.”
Moore was kindhearted as well, to those close to him as well as his fans, speakers said.
“He always rose to the occasion,” said his closest friend, Rand Brooks, who had been an actor before becoming a businessman.
“I never, in all my years, ever heard Clayton say . . . " Brooks fell silent, and then wiped away tears. “He never said one bad word about anyone, anyone.”
That Moore, in the role that defined his career, represented not only all that was virtuous but also an era gone by was a recurring theme in the speeches.
“Clayton Moore was a hero,” Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said, as Moore’s widow, Clarita, daughter Dawn and son-in-law Michael Gerrity stood beside him. “Today’s generation, we do not have that kind of hero.”
Between speeches, the audience watched film clips that highlighted Moore’s career, which included more than 70 feature films, his starring role in “The Lone Ranger” television series, and his more personal struggles for justice.
In 1979, the corporation that owned the rights to the Lone Ranger obtained a court order to bar Moore from appearing at public functions as the mythical masked figure. An outpouring of public support for Moore and five years’ of legal battles later, Moore prevailed and was able to continue wearing his famous mask for fans.
“Some people, some actors will complain about typecasting,” movie reviewer Leonard Maltin told the audience. “That never worried [Moore], in part because he loved the role so much.”
The Lone Ranger creed helped instill in an entire generation of children a sense of values, speakers and audience members said.
Standing outside in western clothing, Debbie Bennett said, “I always wanted to be a cowgirl because of the Lone Ranger.”