Walter Houghton Bishop was born November 17, 1928, in Atlanta, Georgia, the fourth of six children born to John Olin Bishop and Florrie Jeanne Perdue Bishop. He was named after an uncle, Walter Blount McClellan, and after the evangelist, William Henry Houghton, who at the time of Walter’s birth was serving as the pastor at the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta.
He attended Druid Hills School and Boys High School, then Emory University. He spent two years in the army (Intelligence Division) during the Korean War. Upon returning he earned a degree in French at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and taught at Mary Washington College in Virginia. He returned to Chapel Hill for a doctorate degree and as well as to teach French, and was awarded a Fullbright Scholarship to Poitiers, France for medieval studies. While he was in Chapel Hill he was confirmed in the Episcopal Church and even considered taking holy orders but decided against it.
He had been a child prodigy on the piano, and at Chapel Hill he met Martha Gilreath (cellist) and they played in a trio with a violinist. Upon the graduation of Walter (PhD in old French) and Martha (MA in musicology) the couple got married in Chapel Hill in 1962. They moved to Macon, Georgia, where Walter taught French and Spanish at Wesleyan College, and where Bryan, their first son, was born. Walter then took a job teaching French at Georgia State University while Martha played in the Atlanta Symphony, and during this time they added to their family Paula and Gregory. From teaching, Walter turned to work with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Walter was encouraged to build a harpsichord to support Martha’s early music pursuits (viola da gamba) and the harpsichord became a steppingstone for Walter’s creative nature to flourish.
Building early keyboard instruments became an avocation for him and he built 24 of them: harpsichords, virginals, clavichords, and a violas da gamba, psalteries, rebecs, vielles, a harp, hurdy-gurdy, Nun’s fiddle, cittern and a modern viola.
Always a man of great faith, Walter attended several Episcopal churches in Atlanta, and finally settled on St. Hilda’s Anglican Catholic Church where he served as organist for over 30 years. In addition to playing the organ, he was the church’s treasurer. He continued to attend St. Hilda’s regularly until the pandemic took hold, and dementia took its deadly toll on Walter. Through it all he remained a wonderful husband and father, accepting the fate the Lord had dealt him.
After a long and productive life of 94 years, Dr. Bishop died peacefully and painlessly in his sleep at Emory’s hospice on March 3, 2023. He is survived by his wife Martha of 60 years, two sons, Bryan and Gregory, both of Atlanta; a daughter, Paula and her husband Sherman Hoover, of Asheville, NC; two cats; NightShade and Raisin; and a sister, Ruth Hansard of Jonesboro, Arkansas, as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
People wishing to make a contribution to Dr. Bishop are encouraged to send such to St. Hilda’s Anglican Catholic Church, 414 North Highland Ave, NW, Atlanta GA 30307.
I was really impressed to read all about Dr. Bishop. He had a very interesting life!!. I would like tp have known him.