Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Tar Heel "Flying Bishop" remembered in Alaska

The Rev. William Jones Gordon Jr., a native of Spray in Rockingham County that's now part of a town called Eden, was known for many things. He was an Episcopal priest, UNC graduate and, at age 29, became the young bishop of Alaska -- said to be the youngest bishop in the church.  At first he served his flock via dogsled and riverboat, but in time gave it up to reach them faster and farther by flying.  So in time he became known as the "Flying Bishop," flying his canary yellow Piper PA-20 into remote places to bring cargo, provisions and the Word of God to folks in the back country.

They celebrated Gordon's life last week in Fairbanks, where they hung a Piper from the ceiling at the Morris Thompson Visitors and Cultural Center. Above is a picture by Sam Harrel, captured from the newsminer.com's website.  Mary Beth Smetzer of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner has the story here. 

Often when the Piper would come flying in to a village, the children would come running to greet the bishop, one speaker said at the celebration. But it usually wasn't their eagerness for religious services, he said; they were clamoring for the doughnuts the bishop would bring with him as a treat.

Gordon, who died in 1994, is buried at Point Hope, Alaska, but his family had strong ties to the Tar Heel state. His father was a well known priest for whom a bridge in Rockingham County is named. His great grandfather was a governor of North Carolina during the Civil War -- Henry Toole Clark.  Jone's son, William Jones "Bill" Gordon III, a classmate of mine at UNC Chapel Hill (Class of 1968) was master of ceremonies.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I Heard the Owl Call My Name" was a similar themed novel we taught 30 years ago in middle school Jack.
Nice story.