The Rev. Vernon Dobson, a tireless advocate for equality and justice and one of the city’s preeminent religious, community and civil rights leaders, died in the early hours of Jan. 26 from the complications of a stroke. He was 89.
“For people who care about equality and fairness, a great, loud voice for justice has been silenced today. Rev. Dobson was an incredible agitator,” said Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP.
“He did not want us to ever become comfortable with injustice or discrimination.”
Dobson’s hard-wired belief in the cause of equality was forged very early on, and he remained dedicated to that fight throughout his life.
“He got started through his parents,” said daughter Sharon Dobson, 63. “He used to go with my grandmother to protest downtown or wherever she saw injustice.”
Born Oct. 29, 1923, Dobson graduated from Frederick Douglass High School and joined the U.S. Navy in 1940. He studied at Howard University on the G.I. Bill, earning two degrees, and upon graduation, he worked as a probation officer and as recreation manager at Knox Presbyterian Church.
But, as the son of a minister, Dobson’s heart lay in the church. By 1958, he was serving as assistant pastor of Union Baptist Church in Baltimore’s west side.
And, he went on to serve as the church’s pastor for 40 years until his retirement in 2007. In that capacity, Dobson mentored many young ministers and served as a leader and visionary for the Black ministerial fraternity.
“His passing will leave a major void in the Baltimore religious community because for many years he’s been its prophetic voice,” said the Rev. A.C.D. Vaughn, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church and a lifelong friend of Dobson’s since their days in Sunday school.