Griffin Straughn Dobyns, 81, city police officer for 28 years

April 18, 2001|By Frederick N. Rasmussen | Frederick N. Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Griffin Straughn Dobyns, one of the first African-American police officers in Baltimore, who spent his 28-year career as a patrolman in the Western District, died Monday at Fort Howard Hospice Center of cancer. He was 81.

The longtime Forest Park resident joined the Baltimore Police Department in the late 1940s and retired in 1976. He then was head of security at the old Governor's Club in Bolton Hill until 1986.

"There were only three other African-American officers when he started out," said his daughter, Marilyn Dobyns of Pikesville.

In those days, the Western District station was on Pennsylvania Avenue, Miss Dobyns said.

"He always said the death of the police force was the patrol car, and that when police officers walked beats they knew who the people were and the people knew the police officers," she said.

Miss Dobyns recalled the time a killer rang the doorbell of her father's Smallwood Street home to turn himself in.

"My mother was terrified, but Dad just put him in the car and took him downtown," she said. "He always wanted to be a police officer because he had a strong sense of justice. He believed in helping people and his community, and that's where his heart was."

Mr. Dobyns was a member of the Baltimore Retired Police Benevolent Association Inc. and the American Legion.

He was born in Lottsburg, Va., and was valedictorian of the 1938 class at Julius Rosenwald High School in Northumberland County, Va.

He moved to Baltimore in 1942 and enlisted that year in the Army. He served in the Pacific and was discharged in 1948 with the rank of master sergeant. He was recalled to active duty during the Korean War and served in Korea until he was discharged in 1953.

His marriage to Almeta Veney ended in divorce.

Mr. Dobyns enjoyed reading and writing poetry and doing the daily New York Times crossword puzzle.

He was a member of Enon Baptist Church, Edmondson Avenue and Schroeder Street, where services will be held at 11:30 a.m. tomorrow.

He also is survived by a brother, Eugene Dobyns of Lottsburg; two sisters, Mary Ellen Downes of Baltimore and Willie Ann Carter of Lottsburg; and many nephews and nieces.

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