Bainbridge, GA -- Recounting how his political path started from his days as a Boy Scout working on citizenship badges, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop told Bainbridge College political science students on Tuesday, March 13, how he got involved in politics.
“I was a Boy Scout and scouting played a very important role in my life,” Bishop said. “I think it taught me values, which helped to set the foundation of who I am.”
Bishop was invited by Dr. John Vanzo, professor of political science at BC. Besides Dr. Vanzo’s students, the audience included other BC students and faculty members.
A fan of the television legal drama “Perry Mason” that ran from 1957-66, Bishop said he wanted to be a lawyer. He graduated from Morehouse College the same year civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated -- 1968.
“I was inspired by this great man, and I was really determined to try to emulate him in my life and my career. I got just a little bit turned around in a sense in that I began to wonder if I should follow him in his footsteps and go to seminary,” Bishop told the students.
Bishop was enrolled in Crozer Theological Seminary in Pennsylvania and in Emory Law School. Bishop said he wanted to keep Dr. King’s dream alive and was determined to be involved in the Civil Rights Movement, but which to pursue – theology or law?
Expressing his dilemma, Bishop said he talked with civil rights attorney Howard Moore Jr., who said if Bishop goes to seminary, “When you come out, you will just be blowing hot air. Every time Dr. King went to jail for the Civil Rights Movement, he had to call a lawyer to get him out. If you really want to do something to help the Civil Rights Movement, you should have a useful skill. You should go to law school.”
Bishop interned with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and was successful in defending inmates in the Georgia State Prison in Reidsville on charges of discrimination and poor conditions. A judge had ruled that the State of Georgia must pay $110 million to correct the conditions at the prison, but the General Assembly refused to appropriate the money.
Recounting an assignment by one of his former political science professors on finding what the definition of politics is, the congressman said the professor said, “The definition of politics is very, very simple: Who gets what, when and how. That’s all you need to know. That’s the definition of politics.”
“That’s when I realized when I was litigating that case how real that definition was,” Bishop said. That’s when he decided to enter public service, where the reach of helping more people is wider.
Rep. Bishop answered several questions following his address.
Jay Spears of Bainbridge asked him about two proposals, House Bill 47, which urges controls of international wildlife trade, and House Resolution 50 that reauthorizes African elephant, rhinoceros and tiger conservation acts through 2016.
Holland Irwin of Cairo asked about the decriminalization of the male species of marijuana plants, and Elise Wang of Bainbridge asked him about his General Election opponent, Ken DeLoach.
A BC professor asked Bishop about funding for the capture of warlord Joseph Koney.