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Northampton Memorial Library to honor Paul and Viola Bishop

JACKSON – In partnership with the Bishop Family and author Shelia Moses, Northampton Memorial Library (NML), a branch of Albemarle Regional Library (ARL), will rename its programming room in honor of the Reverend Doctor Paul Andrew Bishop and his wife, Viola Taylor Bishop, in a private ceremony on Saturday, Sept. 25.

The Rev. Dr. P.A. and Mrs. Viola T. Bishop Programming Room honors the memories of two important Northampton County residents. In order to maintain proper COVID protocols for the safety of all involved, the ceremony will be for family only, but the event can be live streamed on the Northampton Memorial Library Facebook page.

Dr. Bishop is a significant figure in both local and state history. A native of Rich Square and pastor of five area churches (three in Northampton County), he spent his life giving back to his community. Dr. Bishop served as an educator, community leader, organizer, and entrepreneur.

The Bishop name was known locally and globally. Rev. Dr. Bishop served on many boards nationally (including being First Vice President of the National Baptist Convention) and across the state (including as Chair of the Board of Trustees of Shaw University, his alma mater), but he believed firmly that his work was best accomplished by helping the people in the area around his home.

Dr. Bishop helped Northampton County and northeastern North Carolina throughout his lifetime, and his legacy continues today. He organized and chaired the Roanoke-Chowan Credit Union, helping to build and manage the largest business complex for African-Americans in the region. Despite having to face the unjust laws of segregation, Bishop did not let societal restrictions limit him or his service. He organized the first Black public library with a bookmobile to serve the Northampton County area, and, in 1959, the county renamed its “Negro Branch Library” (in Rich Square) the “PA Bishop, Sr. Library.”

In 1970, when the current building for Northampton Memorial Library was built in Jackson, the Bishop Memorial Library was closed and absorbed, leaving one single, integrated library in the county. In the same year, NML became a member of Albemarle Regional Library. As NML moved into its new building, its branch manager, Frances S. Midyette, paid tribute to the Bishop Library as “an institution of which we can all be proud.” Northampton residents, and indeed residents of the entire Roanoke-Chowan area, can be proud of all Dr. Bishop and his library provided.

Mrs. Bishop, also provided for and served the area. A Howard University graduate from Washington, DC, she made Northampton County her home as she taught mathematics at Rich Square Institute (later W.S. Creecy School), and served as the first school librarian at Creecy. The Bishops owned the first modern brick home in Rich Square, one of many ways they were forward thinking and progressive leaders in the community.

As a couple, they were dedicated to educating the people around them and pushing others to excel. Together, they served and honored Northampton County, helping its citizens with efforts to educate and enrich them.

ARL now joins with the Bishop Family and Northampton county native Shelia P. Moses to honor the Bishops and share their story.

Northampton Memorial Library honors the memories of these two community leaders by naming the programming room at NML for them. The Bishops were friends with governors and other dignitaries, but they always put their Northampton friends first, and now all patrons of the library can keep their community spirit alive through their use of the Rev. Dr. P.A. and Mrs. Viola T. Bishop Programming Room.

The ribbon cutting ceremony will stream live on the NML Facebook page, and patrons are invited to come see the newly-dedicated room in the days to follow. As a public building in the county, Northampton Memorial Library calls for all patrons to wear masks during this pandemic.