Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Ministry of Public Service

BOND: Now, you mentioned a man named I think Bob Smith or—yeah, Bob Smith, Harvard Law grad you met in Atlanta, and he advised you to go to law school. You said, "Talking with Bob a lot I decided I could make a more practical contribution as a lawyer. Lawyers deal more with the nitty gritty. Perhaps I can help more people over the long haul as a Christian layman than I could in a pulpit," you said.

BISHOP: Yes, yes. In fact, I think Bob was also a lawyer and a minister. He was attending the seminary out in Decatur—

BOND: Columbia.

BISHOP: Columbia, but he was a staff attorney at the Emory Neighborhood Law Office at the time I was doing my clinical work at Emory. I had told him about the dilemmas that I had faced earlier in trying to decide whether to go to seminary or go to law school and I had determined that mine would probably end up being a ministry of public service and ultimately, I came to realize that that's what my destiny was. In other countries, there's a ministry of health, a ministry of trade, a ministry of education, and we call ours agencies, this particular agency, the Agricultural Department or whatever the departments are, but I think that I've come to realize that my calling was a ministry of public service.

BOND: I read some place else that you'd said that you realize that every time Reverend King got in jail, he had to call an attorney to get him out.

BISHOP: That's right. And I was committed to the movement, to doing something in the South and, of course, when I graduated from Morehouse in '68, still with the King legacy on my mind, my first year at Emory I took at job at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center which was just started on the campus of ITC in the basement there of Dr. Vincent Harding, who directed that as well as the Institute of the Black World where I had the good fortune of meeting people like Julian Bond, John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Donald Stone and many others who came through—Willie Ricks—from time to time, but I got an exposure of the movement that I had not had and it was a very, very fruitful experience for me.