CATEGORY: Alcorn County
Former Corinth Mayor E.S. Bishop dies
By Jane Clark Summers
Daily Journal Corinth Bureau
CORINTH – Educator, politician, statesman, community booster, civic and religious leader. These were just a few of the words being used Tuesday to describe Edward S. Bishop Sr., who died Monday at North Mississippi Medical Center at the age of 88.
The grandson of a slave, he crossed racial barriers to win election to the Corinth Board of Alderman. Bishop capped his political career by being elected mayor in a city where over 85 percent of the residents are white. He was the first and only black mayor elected in a majority-white city in Mississippi.
A former educator, he retired for the fourth time in November 1994 after completing 20 years in city government.
He first ran for the Ward 4 alderman seat in 1970 and was beaten so badly he didn’t feel like trying again, Bishop said in an interview in 1994. At his friends’ insistence, however, he ran in 1974 and defeated his opponent by a 2-to-1 margin. For the next three terms, he ran unopposed.
Serving as vice mayor during his last term as alderman, he automatically became mayor when Jack Holt resigned from the office. Bishop was elected to a full term in 1990.
Looking back over his administration, Bishop said he was most proud of Corinth’s annexation. He left office wishing that several other pet projects had been accomplished, including renovation of City Hall to include handicap accessibility, adoption of a city leash law and a change to an appointed police chief.
A 1930 graduate of Jackson State College, Bishop worked in the Jackson city schools for five years as a social studies teacher and football and basketball coach. The Starkville native moved to Corinth in 1935 and served as principal at Scale and Easom schools until desegregation. He then became coordinator of federal programs for Corinth city schools.
During his years as an educator, he became affectionately known as “Prof,” a name that stuck. He was also known for his eloquent speeches.
When he retired from the school system in 1973, he was recruited by Gov. Bill Waller and later by Gov. Cliff Finch to serve as director of the Council on Children. After retiring from that position, he returned to Corinth and assumed the title of director of Alcorn County Human Resources, where he was instrumental in the operation of an acclaimed senior citizen day-care program.
Because of state conflict of interest laws, he reluctantly resigned from the post when he became mayor. As promised, Bishop actively supported the elderly program after retiring as mayor.
Alton Thompson, director of programs for the city of Corinth, often accompanied Bishop on trips to Jackson. On one trip during his last year in office, the mayor had three meetings that day and announced that he had one more that night. “I was tired, wore out,” the much younger Thompson said. “I remember looking at him and thinking, ‘I don’t see how this man is going like this.’ He may have been feeling bad, but he didn’t show it.
“Anytime, Prof made up his mind to do something, he would jump in full force and follow it through all the way to achieve his goal,” Thompson said. “He would find a way to get around the ‘can’t do it’ and do it.”
Nita Dees, program director at the Bishop Center, a senior citizen center named for him, said, “Mr. Bishop’s death was our loss and heaven’s gain.” A former county tax assessor, Dees said Bishop was the first person she went to for advice when she ran for office in 1962. She said Bishop told her, “Miss Nita, just be yourself.”
Alcorn Human Resource Agency Director Annette Mitchell said Bishop had remained on the agency’s board of directors and was serving as vice chairman at the time of his death.
“It is just a great loss,” Mitchell said. “When Prof came into the center, he always made it a point to speak individually to everyone. As busy as he was, he had time for everyone and it didn’t matter who they were, their race or social status. Nothing like that mattered. He cared about everybody, particularly the elderly and children.”
City Clerk Jim Billingsley worked with Bishop in various capacities during the last 35 years. “Everybody in the state knew him,” Billingsley said. “He was a true public servant, and he will be missed. He left a big void.”
Mayor Jerry Latch, who visited in the hospital with Bishop Friday, said the former mayor, although frail in body was strong in mind and spirit, an optimist to the end. He was looking forward to getting back home and being involved in community work. “He was a fine, honorable man, a great leader,” Latch said.
Funeral on Friday
Married to the former Eva Hunter, the couple had five children, one of whom preceded him in death. He also leaves 15 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.
Funeral services will be at 1 p.m. Friday at St. Mark Baptist Church. Visitation will be Thursday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the church. Grayson Funeral Home has charge of arrangements.
His honors over a lifetime and lengthy career are too numerous to list. He is a past recipient of the prestigious Citizen of the Year award.
He was honored by the Black Division of the Mississippi Municipal Association for his services through the years, especially to the black caucus.
Bishop was named one of the first recipients of the Mississippi Humanities Council’s Public Humanities Achievement Awards.