John Jefferson "JJ" Bishop Jr.
John Jefferson "JJ" Bishop Jr. was born Sept 4th, 1920 in Ocala, Florida. He was a graduate of Ocala High School and member of the band under Mrs. Browne' Greaton Cole in the late 1930's, playing coronet, trumpet, and Eb horn. He served in the U.S. Army Air Force Band during World War II. He attended Murray State University in Kentucky where he received his degree in Music.
From 1950-1957, he taught music at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee before returning to Ocala and being appointed the band director at Ocala Jr. High School in 1957. He worked closely with the high school director, Pop Armstrong, during this time, performing several joint concerts with the high school band in and around Ocala. When Pop's health began to decline in the early 60's, Mr. Bishop stepped in to assist. He took over as the band director for Ocala High School in 1962 and remained in that position until 1965. During his tenure, he organized several precursors to the Marion All-County Band which included students from OHS, Lake Weir HS, and Dunnellon HS. They would combine for performances around the area as needed. He brought back the summer band program that was popular under Mrs. Cole. Mr. Bishop was also instrumental in the organization and growth of the Ocala Christmas parade during the 60's, having held the positions of both Parade Committee Chairman and Music Committee Chairman. In 1964 during his time as chairman, a record number of Florida bands, over twenty bands from outside Ocala, participated in the Ocala Christmas Parade that year.
Mr. Bishop was, for many years, involved as the choir director for the local Presbyterian Church in Ocala and helped to organize many local choir festivals and performances. He was a founder of the Ocala Chorale Society, a precursor to Marion Civic Chorale, and was its first director. Mr. Bishop was instrumental in helping to develop the Marion Music Festival in which the local bands and choirs would get together to perform for each other and the public. This festival lasted through the 1970's and was eventually separated into several smaller events. These festivals began to be sponsored by the Optimist Club of Ocala on an annual basis and continue to this day as the Ocala Optimist Music Festivals. These festivals serve as a pre-MPA performance for most of the local school bands.
In 1965, Mr. Bishop left OHS to return as band director at Ocala Junior High School, now called Osceola. In 1969, he moved to Fort King Jr. High where he remained until his retirement in the early 1980's. He remained active with the Ocala Kiwanis Club and with the Presbyterian Church choir until his death in 2002.