Alfonso “Poncho” Moran
1930 – 2003
Little is known about Alfonso Moran’s life. He painted landscapes and was legendary as a professional gambler. He was well known in Gifford, Florida, for his expertise in playing pool and billiards. He also played poker, but it was his skill at shooting pool that gave him his foremost identity. This expertise seemed to distinguish him more than his painting. Some say Alfonso stopped painting to concentrate on his gambling career. He was one of the older Highwaymen and one of the first to die.
Alfonso was born in Vero Beach. His mother was Annie Colley and his father was absent, although he no doubt took his name. He grew up with two brothers and a sister. He went to Gifford High School, although it isn’t clear if he graduated.
Alfonso joined the army and fought in the Korean War. He knew Alfred Hair and sometimes hung out with him. However, Alfred’s wife, Doretha, says he probably learned to paint from Harold Newton. Like several other Highwaymen, Alfonso started his career as a painter by making frames.
Willie Reagan described Alfonso as a handsome man, reaching the height of 6’3” or more, who dressed in a snappy white suit. He had a kind face with dimples and the skill to charm anyone he met. He traveled up and down the East Coast playing pool. Although he ran with a questionable crowd, Alfonso seemed to have been a calm and controlled man. He wasn’t violent and didn’t look for trouble. People enjoyed watching him play pool, as they marveled at his skill. He commanded a crowd. According to Reagan, he didn’t have a car, but rode with other people when he needed to get from place to place.
Those who knew him say Alfonso would not have worked the fields, as it simply wasn’t in his character. He had other jobs during his lifetime, training as a barber at Ronnie’s Barber Shop in Gifford and sometimes painting houses.
Alfonso didn’t always live in Florida, perhaps because his pool playing took him to varying places and he wanted to live where the games were active. We know that he lived in Jonesboro, Georgia, at one time and then in the late 1980s, living in Decatur, Georgia.
Although the Gifford painters knew Alfonso, they didn’t necessarily keep his company, as he didn’t represent the goals their parents had for them. Willie Reagan says he kept his distance from Alfonso because he didn’t want to get into gambling. Willie’s goal was to make his parents proud, and besides, he simply didn’t have time. He was always working or studying for school.
Late in his life, Alfonso had a stroke and was unable to talk. As he aged, he lost both his legs. In 2003, he died in Vero Beach of diabetic complications.
According to Al Black, Alfonso didn’t paint that many paintings because he was so good at making money from shooting pool. Consequently, Alfonso’s paintings are harder to find than most other Highwaymen.
The few confirmed images we have of his work show bold colors and compositions that fill the canvas. His skies are active and his paint is heavily applied. He played with various renditions of light, and sometimes added people in the setting.
Alfonso Moran had talent, but based on the numbers of paintings that have turned up in the last few decades, he was far more drawn to a life of playing pool.