John Wesley Dobbs
Shoe shine boy, college drop out, post office clerk, fighter for equal rights. Marietta native John Wesley Dobbs didn’t let his poor childhood keep him down.
He kept pushing ahead when his mother was sick and he had to drop out of college. He kept at his post office job for 32 years. And he kept on… trying to make Atlanta a better place for blacks starting in the early 1900s.
Dobbs was middle aged when he founded the Atlanta Civic and Political League in 1936, and helped start the Atlanta Negro Voters’ League ten year’s later. With Dobb’s help, the Voters’ League once gathered 18,000 votes in less than two months.
Along the way Atlanta leaders took notice. In 1948, Atlanta mayor William Hartsfield kept a promise to Dobbs by hiring the city’s first black police officers. The eight officers could not arrest whites and could only patrol in black neighborhoods, but it was a start.
Dobbs died in 1961 on the same day that Atlanta city schools were desegregated. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at his funeral and Thurgood Marshall, future Supreme Court justice, was a pallbearer. Dobbs grandson Maynard Jackson was there, too….. he’d later become Atlanta’s first black mayor because, in part, of his grandfather’s work for racial justice.