The Rev. Vernon Dobson, a leader in Baltimore City’s civil rights movement and prominent figure in its religious community, died in the early morning hours of Jan. 26. He was 89.

A graduate of Baltimore’s historic Douglass High School, Dobson was pastor of Union Baptist Church for nearly 40 years, during which time he helped establish Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, or BUILD, served faithfully with the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and worked tirelessly with the Goon Squad, a robust team of justice workers who never took “no” for an answer.

“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.”
She said she was proud to have known him, “to have learned from him and now will join those who will attempt to carry the baton he passed to us.”

Tributes and remembrances were being circulated on Facebook and other social media outlets as the word spread that another giant has gone home.

Sheila Wright called him a “Soldier of God,” and characterized Rev. Dobson as “a man who truly cared about people and community.”

Rashida Forman-Bey had a variety of words to describe him.

“When I think of him the words honesty, authenticity, sincerity, brilliant, devotion, service and wisdom,” she wrote. “What a powerful ancestor.”

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin issued the following statement on the passing of Rev. Dobson:

“Baltimore has lost its own civil rights icon with the passing of the Reverend Vernon Dobson. Reverend Dobson fought for justice and equality and led one of the most visible and important fights to integrate the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park. As pastor of the Union Baptist Church, he has been an inspiration to a generation of Marylanders who care about the civil rights for all Americans. I was proud to call him a friend and his death is a loss for everyone who cares about equal opportunity for all.”

Services for Rev. Dobson begin with the family hour, 11 a.m., Feb. 2 at St. Mark’s Institutional Baptist Church, 655 N. Bentalou St. in west Baltimore and continue with the funeral at noon.