Thanks to my longtime friend and activist Sarah Matthews for tagging me in a Facebook post about Rev. Vernon Nathaniel Dobson, a former longtime pastor of Union Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
With no disrespect to the current religious leaders doing great across the city of Baltimore, the country, and the state, we could still use someone the likes of Rev. Vernon N. Dobson.
Vernon Nathaniel Dobson was born on October 29, 1923 in Towson, Maryland to the Rev. Spencer and Mrs. Estella Dobson. He graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in June 1941. He attended the Unity Christian Methodist Church, where his father served as the Superintendent of Sunday School.
As a young boy, he accompanied his mother as she and groups of protesters would rally against racial inequality. On one occasion, he witnessed the police brutally attack a Black woman. This made him determined to dedicate his life in the fight against tyranny and racial injustice.
While serving in World War II in the U.S. Navy, he met and married Napoleon Bonaparte Pleasants. Afterwards, he attended Howard University on the G.I. Bill and graduated in 1953 from the School of Divinity. He was later ordained by Rev. Arthur J. Payne of Enon Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland.
In 1958, he was called to the historic Union Baptist Church in Baltimore, MD where he served as assistant pastor to Rev. Baxter L. Matthews. Upon Rev. Matthews' retirement, Dobson became the Pastor, a position in which he remained for over 40 years.
Dobson, along with 3 other prominent African American ministers (Rev. Frank Williams, Rev. Robert Newbold, and Rev. Marion Bascom) were known as the Four Horsemen for their involvement in the Civil Rights movement. Dobson and other ministers met with Martin Luther King, Jr. to help plan the historic March on Washington.
In the late 1970s, he co-founded Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development (BUILD) which used community organization tactics within churches to affect change.
Rev. Dobson's other accomplishments are too numerous to list in this post, but he lived his life as a true servant of the people.
As Mark 10:45 states, "For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto but to minister and to give His life a ransom for many." Rev. Vernon Nathaniel Dobson truly embodied this in his dedication not only to Baltimore, but to the entire country.