When Kevin J. Bishop went to work on March 11, 2016, he didn’t have any thoughts that the day would be much different than most other days at Fountain.
Bishop is a senior corrections supervisor at G.K. Fountain Correctional Facility and a staff sergeant in the Alabama Army National Guard.
Before March 11 turned to March 12, however, the Perdido resident had established himself as a bona-fide hero, credited not only with playing a major role in quelling an inmate uprising at nearby William C. Holman Correctional Facility, but also with saving the life of Warden Carter Davenport, who was stabbed several times during the riot.
The correctional officer’s valor was formally recognized last week when Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey presented Bishop with the U.S. Army Soldier’s Medal, the highest non-combat award for heroism that can be earned by a member of the United States Army or Reserve Component who performs a heroic act while not on active-duty status.
The citation credits Bishop with rescuing the prison warden from imminent danger without regard for his own personal safety and for helping prevent the violence, which broke out around 9:15 p.m., from spreading to other parts of the facility.
Bishop, the citation reads, “ensured (that) other correctional personnel were able to retreat to safety.” He then demonstrated “exceptional discipline, initiative and arduous effort,” in helping regain control of the situation. It further reads that the military medic’s “devotion to duty, selfless service, bravery and heroism reflects great credit upon himself, Medical Detachment –Alabama and the United States Army.”
Bishop was also injured in the riot, which involved an estimated 100 inmates. Still he was able to maintain control of the situation until three Corrections Emergency Response Teams arrived to take charge. He said he merely acted in the manner he learned from his military and corrections training officers.
“I did not hesitate to respond to the aid of another in this situation,” Bishop said. “This is not something someone plans on doing when they wake up each day. I would hope my fellow officers would take the same actions in my time of need.”
Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn called the Fountain correctional officer “an exceptional leader,” and Gov. Kay Ivey, who had become involved in the medal presentation almost by accident, said Bishop is “a hero for both our country and our state.”
Bishop, a veteran of several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, graduated from the Alabama Corrections Academy in 1997 and earned a promotion to captain in 2013.
He has been part of the Alabama Army National Guard even longer, having enlisted in 2004. He was trained as a combat medic and healthcare NCO with the Medical Detachment – Alabama, which is based in Birmingham.
Last week’s ceremony was well attended, said Vicki Bishop, the honoree’s mother, who pointed out that there was a “slew of military,” including several members of Bishop’s Guard unit, a representative of the Alabama Army Surgeon General’s office, and Major General Perry G. Smith, who as Adjutant General, Alabama, commands the Alabama Army and Air National Guard and advises the governor on military affairs.
There was also plenty of Bishop’s family on hand to witness the hero’s recognition, including Vicki Bishop and her husband, Watson, who retired a few years ago after “30-something years” with the DOC, including a stint as warden at Holman. His daughter, Ashlee, was also there, as were two sets of grandparents, Jimmy Kilcrease, Mearlene Bishop, Joe Moseley and Elaine Moseley.
Vicki Bishop said the medal presentation was the product of an effort by her son’s military superiors, who also stumbled onto the soldier’s selfless deed.
“His military unit commanders heard about what happened,” she recalled. “They came to Kevin and questioned him, then they obtained all the documents (related to the riot and Bishop’s reaction to it). They called the warden and got him to send a certified letter backing up the information they had gotten. That’s when it started progressing.”
She said Ivey then got wind of the impending honor and arranged to make sure the state also expressed its appreciation. She and her staff went out of their collective way to make sure the event was one that would be remembered, in more ways than one.
“Kevin wasn’t supposed to get the medal until the Military Ball in December,” said Mrs. Bishop. “Then the governor sent us an invitation, and we found out it was going on now. He only had two weeks’ notice, and he lost so much weight he had to have his uniform adjusted. I have to say that Governor Ivey and the governor’s staff were so sincere and appreciative. We were just in awe at her reaction to all this. That’s what thrilled us.”
The proud mother said her son had “always had a certain leadership ability” that was enhanced by the training he received in the military.
“He took the training he received as a soldier and used it in his job,” she said. “He told my husband and me that ‘this is what I do; this is what you taught me to do, care for my fellow man.’ We are really proud of him. He went forward when some people would have gone backward.”