Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Morehouse and Beyond: MLK and Others

BOND: You were in the Glee Club?

BISHOP: I was in the Glee Club, but my freshman year is the year that Dr. King received the Nobel Prize and, of course, he was honored on the campus with an honorary degree at a convocation during my freshman year. Dr. [Benjamin] Mays gave him the commendation and he was so eloquent that I asked Dr. Mays for a copy of his remarks, which he graciously provided me with as a study in my English composition class on parallelism and repetition and all of the things that make for a good composition and, of course, they were all there, but I got to meet Dr. King. I was impressed and I began to follow him and, of course, by my senior year I was SGA President at Morehouse. He was assassinated.

Everything in Atlanta just went, and across the country, just went wild. There were riots and fire bombings and all kinds of things like that and I was trying to keep the students relatively controlled on campus so that we wouldn't have any destruction there on the campus, but Dr. King was my — he was my hero. I wanted to follow his footsteps. I wanted to be like Dr. King even though I was a pre-law major. I was majoring in political science, minoring in English at Morehouse. I was getting a bachelor of arts degree, which required a year of philosophy and a year of religion, and, of course, I had been well schooled in Sunday School by Mrs. Reese and others and, of course, I began to wonder whether or not my calling was the ministry and I, of course, was very, very much inspired by Dr. King, so I applied to Crozier Theological Seminary.

BOND: Where he had gone.

BISHOP: Where he had gone, of course, knowing that he had gone to Morehouse and, of course, I — oh, I missed a step. When I was President of the State Student Council, the state meeting was held at Alabama State College in Montgomery at Lab High School, their laboratory high school, and the keynote speaker was a young man who had just been elected to the Georgia State Senate whose name was Leroy Johnson and, of course, he came and he spoke to our group and here I am, a senior in high school, and he talked about his background at Booker [T.] Washington High School in Atlanta, Morehouse College, North Carolina Central Law School, practicing law in Atlanta, run for the state Senate, elected.

I was impressed and, of course, I'd been a fan of government since I had done the Citizenship Merit Badges in the Boy Scouts and since I'd taken government in high school — it was my favorite subject—and so I said, well, maybe I can go to Morehouse and be a lawyer and maybe one day get to the Georgia State Senate.

BOND: So even then you were thinking about —

BISHOP: Yes, subliminally, I guess. But seeing these role models, basically the role model[s] — Dr. Mays, Dr. King, Leroy Johnson, Horace Ward. Horace Ward a professor down at the college where my father was then Dean and Mr. Ward taught social science but he got there because he had applied to the University of Georgia Law School. It was during the Korean War and, of course, when, he applied they sent him a draft notice to make sure that he wouldn't be able to attend even though they rejected him, so somehow my father was able to offer him a job teaching which was draft exempt so he ended up coming to Mobile and teaching at the college where he met his wife, Ruth LeFlore.

BOND: Who was a daughter of a famous civil rights family in Mobile.

BISHOP: Yes, that's correct. Mr. LeFlore was a mover and a shaker. Interesting, because he worked for the post office and, of course, he had a federal job and he couldn't be leveraged like so many others were and, of course, he was a very, very prominent and courageous man in Mobile and, of course, he was a hero also. But interesting — that's how I have progressed and, of course, had a little episode there on the campus at Morehouse when Dr. [Hugh M.] Gloster was getting inaugurated. We had a little student demonstration, but I think the professors who influenced me most were Tobe Johnson and Dr. Anna Harvin Grant, very, very demanding professors. Also, Dr. [Lois Moreland] over at Spelman. I took Political Parties from her, but Dr. Johnson I worked very, very closely with in the Political Science Department as a student assistant.

I also was a student assistant for him, [with] the Morehouse Self-Study Committee. He was Chair of the Self-Study so I worked for him in two capacities as well as having him as my mentor in my major, political science.

Dr. [Robert] Brisbane was chairman of the department, but I spent more time with Dr. Johnson and Dr. Grant was such a tough teacher that when I made it out of her class, I mean, she was just somebody I held in such high esteem and both of them I kept in touch with — I've continued to keep in touch with. She passed away a few months ago, but those two folks really influenced me.