Dr. J. A. Bishop Took Care of J-Town Residents For Nearly 40 Years

June 6, 1974, was a sad day for the residents of Jeffersontown. After 39 years of faithful and caring service, Dr. J.A. Bishop was retiring from his medical practice. The Voice-Jeffersonian newspaper article announcing his retirement called him the “city’s ‘family doctor’,” and from all accounts, that designation appears to have been quite accurate – countless Jeffersontown residents still remember fondly the doctor who tended them when they were younger.

Dr. John Auldin Bishop, Sr. earned his medical degree in 1933 at the University of Louisville and completed his internship at Covington, Louisville City Hospital and St. Joseph’s Infirmary. He first visited Jeffersontown in 1934, and he “immediately felt at home in the ‘pastoral atmosphere’ as he had grown up in a small town.”

At that time, Jeffersontown had a population of 850, and Dr. Bishop felt it was the ideal place to begin his medical practice, especially with the city of Louisville and all its medical facilities within reach.

He and his wife, Thelma, moved to Jeffersontown on July 1, 1935, and rented a six-room white frame house at 354 Market Street (now 10407 Taylorsville Road), which served as both office and residence. Thelma acted as his nurse, although she herself was trained in pharmaceutical work and was employed at Oatey’s Drug Store on the town square.

Dr. Bishop stayed extremely busy in the 1940s, as he was the only doctor in town. In 1941, with the outbreak of World War II, the government procurement board asked him to remain in the area to care for the civilian population in the county from Eastwood to Highview, so for eight years, he alone filled the medical needs of Jeffersontown and the surrounding areas. At the end of the war, Dr. Bishop turned his attention back to his Jeffersontown practice.

Dr. Bishop took his work seriously, putting in more than 15 hours a day. A testament to just how busy Dr. Bishop had become is found in a Jeffersonian newspaper ad he took out to announce that “after October 1, 1952 patients will be seen by appointment only.” 

Dr. C. Kenneth Peters, Bishop’s partner for 11 years, stated that Dr. Bishop was “most unselfish” and that “his primary concern was the sick patient.” Up until a few years before his retirement, Dr. Bishop was known to see a patient at “literally any hour of the day.” In fact, Bishop’s son, John Jr., related the fact that the front porch of their home on College Drive had a chaise lounge on it that was used for triage, in case of medical emergencies in Jeffersontown. At that time, there were no ambulances, so Dr. Bishop would stabilize the patient and call the county police to come in their station wagon and transport the patient to a hospital in Louisville (likely St. Joseph’s).

Dr. Peters also noted that Dr. Bishop was an outstanding diagnostician and that he “had a constant desire to pursue his medical profession to keep up with the modern times.” Part of that included erecting a “modern” building for his practice in 1958. The new structure was to be a one-floor plan containing examining rooms, office space and other facilities, and it would be constructed directly behind the old facility. After the new office was completed, Dr. Bishop donated the old building to the adjacent Jeffersontown Presbyterian Church, and it was moved to a one-acre tract the church had purchased from Dr. Bishop. 

Dr. Bishop’s practice grew right along with Jeffersontown’s burgeoning population, but he never left that office site, although the building was expanded in 1967 and more doctors joined him there. Bishop served as county health inspector, and in 1956, he served as president of the Jefferson County chapter of the American Academy of General Practice. In 1968, he became the first general practitioner to be elected president of the Jefferson County Medical Association — the highest honor his fellow physicians could bestow upon him.

After retiring from his medical practice in 1974, Dr. Bishop continued to work in the medical field, serving as part of the outpatient staff of Veteran’s Hospital. Upon his retirement, Dr. Bishop had devoted 39 years to taking care of the Jeffersontown community, which had risen in that time span from a population of 850 to more than 12,000 individuals. Bishop was involved in more than just medicine, however, he was an active member of the Jeffersontown Community and belonged to the Jeffersontown Presbyterian Church, Rotary Club and was a member of the Jeffersontown Water Commission.

In 1970, he even played the part of the gossipy undertaker in the Mansfield Players’ production of “Our Town.”

As his associate, Dr. Peters, once remarked, “A description of the man’s character would not be complete without mentioning his vivid imagination and unique gift as a storyteller.” Dr. Bishop’s patients were not happy unless a “good yarn” was included along with his diagnosis. Now Dr. Bishop is the subject of many stories himself, especially when the subject of medicine and favorite doctors arises.

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