The Rev. Vernon N. Dobson, who played a pivotal role in the struggle for civil rights in Baltimore during the 1950s and 1960s, first came to historic Union Baptist Church as assistant pastor in 1958, and then was pastor for 39 years, until retiring last year.
"I'm doing a little writing now, and I still preach at different churches several times a month," said Dobson, 84, the other day.
He said he keeps busy with a number of organizations, including BUILD - Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development - a church-based social action group, of which he was a founder.
Dobson was a friend of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights heavyweights, such as Ralph Abernathy, Jesse Jackson, and Andrew Young.
"Whenever Martin came to Baltimore, he'd visit Metropolitan, Douglass Memorial and Union Baptist Church, and we marched together," Dobson recalled. "I remember when we marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, we had thousands of people, and I never saw so many cracker cops in my life.
"I think about him a lot. First, he was an excellent preacher, and second, he was a scholar and philosopher. People forget that. He came on board at a time in the movement when it was looking for college-educated leadership," he said, adding:
"He was one of the finest young men I've ever known in my life. He was always open, always willing to be hugged and held by us," Dobson said. "And he always knew where he came from: He was a son of God and the son of a preacher."
Frederick N. Rasmussen