Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Joe Bishop, RIP

It is primary election day in Virginia, a perfect occasion for remembering longtime Republican activist Joe Bishop.

On Saturday morning, former Charlottesville City Councilor Rob Schilling called to give me the sad news that Joe Bishop, secretary of the city's GOP committee, had passed away. Last night at the Albemarle County-Charlottesville Republican Flag Day picnic, there was a public announcement by Keith Drake of Joe's passing.

Charlottesville voters will know Joe as the stalwart precinct chief at Venable School, standing out in the parking area on every election day, passing out literature in support of Republican candidates or for or against ballot measures. Rain or shine, hot or cold, Joe was there at Venable.

Joe Bishop was a veritable walking encyclopedia of knowledge about local and state politics in Virginia. Were one to ask him a question like, "Who was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 1947?," he would respond with "There was no election for governor that year, but two years later there were these candidates trying for the nomination ..." beginning a disquisition on the state of politics in that year, describing all the players, their strengths and weaknesses, and their ties to other political figures, inevitably relating his story to something relevant to the present day.

In his breadth and depth of local political knowledge, Joe was matched only by Charlottesville journalists Bob Gibson (of the Daily Progress) and Chris Callahan (of WINA-AM) -- or perhaps by his college classmate, the pundits' favorite professor, Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia.

Joe Bishop graduated from the University of Virginia in 1974 and was a lifelong member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society. In fact, it was Joe's absence from the Jefferson Society's reception during the UVa Reunions Weekend earlier this month that caused some concern about his health and whereabouts, which eventually led to the discovery that he had died.

Joe was equally comfortable in conservative and libertarian circles. Unless there was a conflicting Republican event, Joe would invariably be found in the audience of lectures or social occasions sponsored by one of UVa's libertarian organizations, such as Students for Individual Liberty or the Classical Liberal Roundtable. Like Ronald Reagan, Joe recognized that libertarianism was the core of conservatism, and he quietly worked within the Republican party to promote libertarian ideas. Still, he retained a sense of pragmatism about intraparty disputes and how best to serve those ideas through electoral victories and legislation that could actually make it through the General Assembly.

As secretary of the Charlottesville Republican Committee, Joe also served as parliamentarian, and his mastery of parliamentary procedure was legendary. He was often called upon at state or congressional district conventions to lend his opinion to a question regarding Robert's Rules of Order or the official RPV (Republican Party of Virginia) plan.

For all these reasons, Joe Bishop will be missed by Virginia political activists of all parties.

Arrangements for a funeral or memorial service are pending.

Update, August 29: A non-denominational memorial service will be held for Joe Bishop on Sunday, September 2, 2007, from 3:00 to 4:00 P.M. at Jefferson Hall (The Range, University of Virginia).

Speakers will include former Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia James Gilmore and the former First Lady of the Commonwealth Roxane Gilmore. The University Pep Band will also play some of Joe's favorite songs.

A reception will immediately follow in Jefferson Hall; no RSVP necessary.

11 comments:

Shaun Kenney said...

Joe was a good friend and a knowledgeable fellow. I knew him as a Republican; Mrs. Kenney knew him as a member of the Jefferson Society.

He will certainly be missed.

Rosanna B. said...

Rick,
Thank you for writing a beautiful tribute. Joe would have enjoyed reading it.

Anne Camper said...

Yes, thank you, Rick. Rosanna is exactly right.

I've been participating in something of an email wake this week: I and a number of his other Jefferson Society (or "Hall") friends from the mid-70's to early-80's era have been exchanging memories of Joe. And all the memories are vivid, even for those who have not seen him since leaving C'ville.

Joe's passion and intensity combined with a sort of timelessness. Many have remarked on returning to Jeff Hall after two or three decades, and meeting up with Joe right where they left off. Joe was always happy to see you, whether you'd been a co-conspirator or a bitter rival while in the Hall - or maybe more likely, each at various times. In any case, he would launch right into a discussion of politics and current intrigues, whether in the Hall or in the Commonwealth or Nation, as if you'd never been gone. And it was a pleasure.

Especially given this sense of the eternal, Joe's death is a shock to many of us. But those who knew him there will always think of Jeff Hall with a warm recollection of Joe - regardless of which side we took in the many debates.

Peace be with you, Joe, and thanks.

Seamus said...

"Who was the Republican gubernatorial candidate in 1947?," he would respond with "There was no election for governor that year, but two years later there were these candidates trying for the nomination ..."

As every schoolboy knows, the Democratic nominee in 1949 was John S. Battle, the Byrd Organization candidate, who after beating anti-Organization candidate Francis Pickens Miller in the primary, beat Ted Dalton in the general election. Interestingly enough, 20 years later, the Democratic candidate for governor was John Battle's son William. William Battle, however, lost that race to Linwood Holton, the Commonwealth's first Republican governor since Reconstruction, whose daughter is now First Lady of Virginia. While John Battle's son never got elected governor, Ted Dalton's son John did, beating Francis Miller's son Andy in the 1978 election. . . .

Oh, wait. . . I'm sorry, I thought for a moment that I was chatting about Virginia political history with Joe Bishop.

Some of us thought of Joe as Charlottesville's answer to Tom Bombadil, since it seemed both that he'd been there forever and that he was changeless. Alas, it turns out not to be the case.

Rosanna B. said...

Almost right. Ted Dalton's adoptive son, John, beat Henry Howell in the 1977 governor's race. Howell had beaten Miller's son in the 1977 Democratic primary.

Joe would have corrected you.

James Cupp said...

Thanks to Rick for letting us know of Joe's passing.

Joe was one of my favorite people during my days at Mr. Jefferson's University. It was only fitting that he was standing there on the rope-line at my graduation in 2000, wishing me well.

He had boundless enthusiasm and passion... something sorely lacking in my generation.

And as Joe probably would have pointed out... The Republican nominee for Governor in 1949 was Northumberland County Commonwealth's Attorney Walter Johnson of Heathsville, unopposed in the Party's disastrous August 2 primary (competing for voters with the Battle/Miller gubernatorial primary for the Dems), in which only 8,888 votes were cast for him statewide. Johnson had been the Republican nominee for the First Congressional District House of Representatives seat in 1944 and 1946, against incumbent Democrat Rep. Schuyler O. Bland, and had served as a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1948. Additionally, he wrote a weekly column called "The Country Lawyer" that was apparently published in many rural papers of the time. Johnson was defeated for re-election in 1955 by Thomas A. Williams, who served as my mentor during law school.

Tucker said...

Joe Bishop was a stalwart of the Charlottesville/Albermarle GOP. He could always be counted on to make sure that things were run by Robert's(Joe's) Rules and you knew that he cared about the process always being fair. I watched him through many battles, big and small and he was a man strong beliefs in doing things the right way. The smartest people consulted Joe first and if they followed his advice they seldom got into trouble. I will miss his wise counsel.

Tucker Watkins
Past District Chair 5th District GOP

John McRoy Davies College '81 said...

A few years ago I was in C'ville for my uncle's funeral and stopped by to visit the Hall. Joe, of course, was in his usual seat, and I sat down next to him to catch up.

He asked me why I was not doing as much in politics as I used to and I said "Joe, there's just not much room in the Tennessee Republican Party for a gay white man...."

Joe swallowed hard, and then asked me if I was still a Republican. When I said "yes, of course" it all seemed to be OK again.

We then launched into a spirited debate about who was the most electable conservative in 2008 and reminisced about how Marvin Bush (George's seldom-seen brother) had refused to cut the ribbon at the University Reagan-Bush Headquarters way back in 1980. Some old Jeff Hall hands will tell you that Marvin was simply too "stoned" to leave his fraternity house to walk the few blocks to the headquarters on Elliewood Avenue. Who knows?

Somehow, this story mysteriously made its way into the Cavalier Daily, then the Times Dispatch, and then to the Washington Post. After an allegedly angry phone call from Barbara Bush to her errant son, a U.S. Senator was promptly dispatched to cut the ribbon instead and the College Republicans were told to forget Marvin Bush even existed. As Joe might say, "Marvin who???)

Anonymous said...

So sorry to hear about this. I was in the Hall from 90 to 93 and Joe was an integral part of the fabric of the Hall. I know that he is missed.

-Eugene Belitsky '93

friendlynice88 said...

Rick,

I enjoyed your tribute to Joe. It has been 2 years but I still think of Joe Bishop. He was my "political buddy." We went to conventions and many political events together. We also went out for supper many times and talked politics.

I remember going to Jim Gilmore's house for a party after a convention. That night we found out that Reagan died and we were all sad.

I had already made plans to go to Virginia Beach with some friends and could not attend the memorial service. His sister told me to go and have fun.

The last 2 State Republican Conventions were strange without Joe there. He would have enjoyed campaigning for Jim Gilmore. I was the co-ordinator for Gilmore in Rockingham County.

Joe's last words to me were "Vote for Emmett Hanger." I did vote for Emmett. I talked to Joe shortly before he died. I was wondering why he did not call me back. He was like a Republican encyclopedia and explained a lot of things to me.

friendlynice88 said...

Rick,

I enjoyed your tribute to Joe. It has been 2 years but I still think of Joe Bishop. He was my "political buddy." We went to conventions and many political events together. We also went out for supper many times and talked politics.

I remember going to Jim Gilmore's house for a party after a convention. That night we found out that Reagan died and we were all sad.

I had already made plans to go to Virginia Beach with some friends and could not attend the memorial service. His sister told me to go and have fun.

The last 2 State Republican Conventions were strange without Joe there. He would have enjoyed campaigning for Jim Gilmore. I was the co-ordinator for Gilmore in Rockingham County.

Joe's last words to me were "Vote for Emmett Hanger." I did vote for Emmett. I talked to Joe shortly before he died. I was wondering why he did not call me back. He was like a Republican encyclopedia and explained a lot of things to me.