By Journalist Ms. Jones
NEWBURGH – The Bowman family had a reason to celebrate Thanksgiving this year. On Thanksgiving Eve, Wednesday, November 22, Johnston Street from Farrington Street to South Street was renamed Bishop “Mother” Virginia Bowman Way after their matriarch Bishop “Mother” Virginia Bowman, affectionately known as “Mother” Bowman, during a Street Naming Celebration.
“We all called her ‘Mother’ because she was a mother to all. She helped anybody and everybody,” said “Mother” Bowman’s granddaughter Ms. Jones who emceed the event.
“Mother” Bowman took in countless unfortunate people into her home. She gave them full access to the entire house and cooked meals for them. Many times, she gave up her own bed and slept on the floor so that they would have a place to sleep. She even gave her daughter Virginia’s crib to someone in need and put her in a cardboard box. “Mother” Bowman also sold her new Lincoln Cadillac to help someone who was about to lose their home.
“I was a single parent with three children. She took my children, helped me to raise them,” said Pastor Herman Hubbard who lived with “Mother” Bowman when he first came to Newburgh. She also helped him open Personality Barbershop on Johnston Street.
She helped numerous people bury their loved ones.
“When my dad died, “Mother” Bowman came down to the house and… dropped some money in our hands to help us with that funeral… She was a giver… Bishop “Mother” Virginia Bowman, one of the greatest women that I have ever known. Maya Angelou can’t hold anything to her. Ester can’t hold anything to her. She was, now, and still is, in my opinion, the ‘Queen of Newburgh,’” said Rev. Dr. Nelson McAllister, President of the Christian Ministerial Fellowship.
“Mother” Bowman was also known for her Sunday meals where she would cook a feast at her house and the entire community was welcome. It would consist of all the trimmings of a Southern soul food meal.
“Mother” Bowman was the founder of All Nations Church of the Living God located at 149-151 Johnston Street. Built in the mid-1960s, it was the first African-American church to be built in Newburgh from the ground-up.
“When she came with the congregation to fellowship with us… at the House of Joy… Bishop Grant would tell us, ‘Okay, y’all get it together. Make sure the church is clean’… We made sure that our posture was right. We made sure we spoke right because she was a lady of character. She was a lady of dignity and we made sure that we were in place like we should be. She was a lady with great, great authority. I… knew that Mother Bowman meant business. She wanted you to be the best that you could be,” said Deborah Jackson.
Councilman Torrance Harvey officiated the street dedication of Bishop “Mother” Virginia Bowman Way.
“I have a word from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He once said, ‘Even if it calls your lot to be a Street Sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michael Angelo painted pictures. Sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well where all the hosts in heaven and earth will take a pause and say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who swept her job well.’’… Bishop “Mother” Virginia Viola Bowman was the best she could ever be by serving others. Bishop ‘Mother’ and her legacy has been engraved into the annals of history forever. She did her job very well… The living, the dead, and the yet to be born cannot do it any better,” said Harvey.
“Mother” Bowman’s great-great-grandson Tristan Garner pulled the string to unveil the new street sign. Some of “Mother” Bowman’s favorite songs were sung by McDonald Gospelfest Winner Bernard McClinton who sang “How Great Thou Art” as a medley and Songstress Tanisha Castenellos who ministered “I Need Thee.” Recording Artist Jasmine Parker sang her new song “Better Days.” Ralph Williams sang “Waiting” from his new CD, a song befitting of the occasion.
“I’ve been trying to get a street named after ‘Mother’ since she passed in 2004,” said her daughter Virginia Bowman. The City Council passed the vote unanimously to name a street after “Mother” Bowman.
So, the next time that you drive up South Street, look for the sign on the corner of Johnston Street and remember “Mother.”