Bernice Pope was born in Carrier Mills, Illinois, on November 18, 1920. She was the third daughter of Earl "Bud,” a coal miner, and Ruthenia Chavous Russell, a homemaker. She attended the rural Lake View Elementary School, the same grade school her mother and brothers attended. She graduated from Carrier Mills High School at the top of her class in 1938. After high school graduation, she attended the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana Campus on a scholarship and with the help of her brothers. While there, Bernice met and married George L. Pope in 1940. Together, they had two sons, George Russell and Anthony. While George served in the Army during WWII, Bernice taught at the Lake View School in Carrier Mills, Illinois. After his discharge, they moved to Boley, Oklahoma, where she taught for a few years.
They later moved back to Champaign, and Bernice joined the teaching staff at the Willard School. She then went on to the Booker T. Washington School, where she taught for several years. Her last teaching assignment was at the Bottenfield School, where she remained until retirement. Since retirement, Bernice has tutored at Douglass Center, her church, and the Unit #4 School District. She is very interested in the advancement and academic achievement of children in school and church. She feels tutoring provides the possibility of greater achievements by her students. Her two sons and two granddaughters have followed in her footsteps, settling in the education field.
Bernice was a member of the Bethel A.M.E. Church for more than fifty years. She taught Sunday School and was Church Treasurer for 30 years and became a torchlighter in the Women’s Missionary Society. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, where she became a Golden Plus Soror, having been a member for 72 years. She was also an Eastern Star and worked in the Champaign community with Meals on Wheels and the Blood Donor Association. She was on the Board of the County Blood Bank for ten years and a donor for over 20 years.
Bernice Pope passed away on December 26, 2010.