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The Rev. Harold L. Dobson Sr., 74, pastor, champion for youth


The Rev. Harold Lewellyn Dobson Sr., longtime pastor of the church his father founded, St. Mark's Institutional Baptist, and a champion for disadvantaged youth, died Wednesday from complications of a brain tumor at his Lochearn home. He was 74.

Mr. Dobson was a former director of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Baltimore, which helped young people get an education and jobs.

He spent his entire pastoral career at the North Bentalou Street church that had been founded in the mid-1950s by his father, the Rev. Spencer C. Dobson Sr. He was assistant and co-pastor, and succeeded his father as pastor after his death in 1988.

"In my estimation, he was the epitome of the good shepherd. He unselfishly invested himself in other people," said the Rev. Alfred C. D. Vaughn, pastor of nearby Sharon Baptist Church in the 1300 block of N. Stricker St.

"He made a major contribution as director of Opportunities Industrialization Center of Baltimore. He had a way with youngsters, many of whom he managed to get back on their feet and through high school and college," Mr. Vaughn said. "He helped them excel and I think it may have been his crowning achievement."

Born and raised in West Baltimore, Mr. Dobson was a 1943 graduate of Douglass High School. After four years in the Army, serving in the European Theater during World War II, he was discharged in 1947.

Mr. Dobson earned his bachelor's degree from what is now Morgan State University and his divinity degree from Howard University in Washington. He was ordained in 1954.

"He was raised in a very spiritual and loving environment and was always committed to implementing the teachings of Christ. I don't think it really was a surprise that he was called to the ministry," said his wife of 19 years, the former Pamela J. Jenkins.

"He didn't preach fire and brimstone. He took his lesson from the loaves and fishes and tried to get people to help one another," she said.

Mrs. Dobson described her husband as being "very outspoken and blunt. Tact was not one of his attributes."

Mr. Dobson participated in -- and was arrested during -- the Gwynn Oak Amusement Park demonstrations in 1963. He also worked for the election of blacks to public office, and ran unsuccessfully in 1979 for the Democratic mayoral nomination.

In 1984, he led the ad hoc Black Protestant Coalition Against United Way, charging that the charity denied blacks a full role in deciding the distribution of the money it raised.

"We have been dealing with the poor and needy in this city all our lives and we know where the money is needed," Mr. Dobson said in a 1984 interview with The Sun.

He had been head of the Baptist Ministers' Conference of Baltimore, the United Missionary Baptist Convention and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Despite declining health, Mr. Dobson refused to retire. "He saw that poverty was still an issue in the city and the nation. He was concerned about the failure of the public schools and the fact that discrimination was still rampant," his wife said.

An earlier marriage to the former Mildred Turner ended in divorce.

Services were held yesterday at his church.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Dobson is survived by five sons, Harold L. Dobson Jr., Jobert Dobson and John Dobson, all of Baltimore, Sherman Dobson of Washington and Eric Dobson of Randallstown; a daughter, Spencella Dobson of Baltimore; three brothers, the Rev. Vernon Dobson, Spencer C. Dobson Jr. and Irvi Dobson, all of Baltimore; a sister, Anne Ware of Baltimore; five grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

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