Reverend Vernon Dobson | BUILD Baltimore

BUILD Baltimore

Reverend Vernon Dobson

Condolences Baltimore                                                                                                                  


(photo from the Baltimore Sun)

In memoriam, Rev. Vernon Dobson, 1923-2013


Just this week a well-informed citizen leader in Washington, DC asked me “What happened  to Baltimore?” Meaning its economy, meaning its port and politics, meaning its black community. As always I dipped into the inherited memory, the shared analysis, the anger-infused grief ─ what we all learned at the Vernon Dobson school of public life. Today he “went home to the Lord”, but the Lord was always “at home” at his right hand:  in the coffee house, in the Laundromat, the make-shift neighborhood gym at the heart of Union Baptist Church. Amid the marble-stooped Druid Hill Avenue history ─ think Thurgood Marshall, think Juanita, Parren Mitchell, and the doctors, lawyers, and school principals whose ghosts linger into harsher times….

The least of these ─ Bobby Lee washing cars with his well-used soapy water ─ were welcomed here, and memorable.   For those of us who’d missed “The Goon Squad” ─ Rev. Dobson and cohorts, their early firebrand years, there was his fierce ─“If they dare threaten ..touch a hair on your heads”─defense of low-wage workers daring to question their poverty, in their hopes of climbing Jacob’s ladder to a living wage ─A lion’s ferocity protecting its young, and he could roar, but also with laughter, recounting the antics of some irreverent caper, political prank or the blunder of some public ego. Almost never more than one levered window away from the sidewalk, the street-level stream of life chaotic and dear, the sidewalk of our first encounter in the snow.

He was shoveling in an army jacket and boots. I thought: the custodian. We later laughed, as he changed to go negotiate for the first of hundreds of new houses in Nehemiah’s name. He’d later rent a trolley and bullhorns to turn out the vote. I never heard his take on Obama’s election, the expectations, and disappointment.  Hard to imagine him silent, this void.  His dead-on wisdom and advice, barbershop yarns, and laughter still reverberate.  To us, the hand-off: anthems, and spirituals in which we heard him loud and clear, now guide our feet  for we, for sure…..  don’t want to run this race in vain.                     

by Kathleen O’Toole, former BUILD lead organizer and current Senior Organizer for VOICE 


Homer E. Favor, civil rights activist - Baltimore Sun

‘City of Baltimore has made the nation proud,' mayor says day after more than 1,000 gathered for protestOBITUARIES

Homer E. Favor, civil rights activist

Dr. Homer Favor in 1964.
(Weyman Swagger, Baltimore Sun)

Dr. Homer Eli Favor, a retired Morgan State University economist who was an original member of the civil rights activist group whose members called themselves the "Goon Squad," died of heart disease Saturday at the Baltimore-Washington Medical Center.

A Glen Burnie resident, he had lived in East Baltimore for many years. He was 88.

"He was the strongest advocate for human justice you could find anywhere," said the Rev. Alfred C.D. Vaughn, pastor of Sharon Baptist Church. "He was involved in every phase of the civil rights movement and if Homer was your friend, he was a friend for life."

A native of Pittsburgh, he was the son of teachers. He earned bachelor's and master's degrees, as well as a doctorate, from the University of Pittsburgh.

During World War II, he served in the Army in Marseilles, France. He was awarded a Bronze Star.

Dr. Favor moved to Baltimore in 1956 and joined the Morgan State faculty as an assistant professor of economics.

"Dr. Favor forged relationships across Baltimore with diverse groups who were involved with addressing deficits in race relations, housing, and education among the urban poor," said a friend, Oliver Patrick Scott, the board chairman of Sojourner-Douglass College in East Baltimore. "He never failed to challenge authority. That was just his thing. And he liked to roughhouse verbally."

He recalled that Dr. Favor networked widely and often held meetings at the Afro-American newspapers, the Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Citizens Planning and Housing Association, Baltimore Neighborhoods Inc. and the Baptist Ministers Conference.

"He was popular among the ministers and early on would give them help on how to manage their churches financially," said Mr. Scott, who is also the former director of Morgan's Murphy Fine Arts Center. "He would give freely of his skills and his knowledge."

His son, Kevin Eli Favor, said his father also worked with black psychologists and psychiatrists to establish an Office of Minority Mental Health at the National Institutes of Health.

More than 40 years ago, Dr. Favor established an Urban Studies Institute at Morgan and directed studies on unemployment in Baltimore and an examination of the Cherry Hill neighborhood. He received a $600,000 Ford Foundation grant for a Center for Urban Affairs, also at Morgan.

His program changed its name to the School of Urban Studies and Human Development. He was its dean from 1973 to 1982.

"The School of Architecture and Planning, the Institute for Urban Research, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Strategy, the School of Education and Urban Studies, and the Department of Transportation all had their beginnings 50 years ago as programs in the original Urban Studies Institute, and they flourish today at Morgan," said Mr. Scott.

Dr. Favor retired from Morgan State University as a professor of economics in 2001. He later became a member of the board of advisors at Sojourner-Douglass.

"If Homer believed in a cause, he remained with it and would follow through," said Charles W. Simmons, president of Sojourner-Douglass.

He recalled how Dr. Favor befriended influential ministers, including Vernon Dobson, Marion Bascom, and Wendell Phillips, as well as activist Walter Carter.

In his 2008 book, "Here Lies Jim Crow," former Baltimore Sun reporter C. Fraser Smith described the Goon Squad, the small group that Dr. Favor joined more than 50 years ago.

"They were regarded in some quarters as disreputable, ungoverned by the conventions of their calling," Mr. Smith wrote. "They had gone into the streets to raise hell ... a bunch of goons, someone said. ... This Baltimore-based band of ministers and university professors embraced the slur and wore it with pride."

Years later, Dr. Favor described the group in a pamphlet: "Kindred souls dreamed of a more perfect city that could be attained by political empowerment," he wrote.

Dr. Favor and his group worked to elect Joseph C. Howard as the first citywide elected African-American judge on the Supreme Bench of Baltimore City. Another squad member, Parren J. Mitchell, became Maryland's first black congressman.

"This group exercised the power of the pen, the podium, the vote, and direct action to influence public policy," said Mr. Scott. "Homer honed his skills as an orator and was in demand as a speaker across the country. He agitated for the poor."
In 1978, Dr. Favor was quoted in a New York Times article about Baltimore's renewal efforts. The article said Baltimore's "record of helping the poor and underprivileged is not so clear."

"There is some question about who the city is being revitalized for," Dr. Favor told the Times.

Sojourner-Douglass will award Dr. Favor a posthumous honorary degree this month.

A memorial service will be held at 10 a.m. June 20 at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Ave. A family hour will be held from 9 a.m to 10 a.m. preceding the memorial service.

In addition to his son, who lives in Forest Hill, survivors include another son, George Alvin Favor of Baltimore; a daughter, Vicky Lynn Favor of Baltimore; his companion of many years, Phyllis T. Anderson of Glen Burnie; a brother, Hugh M. Favor of Buffalo, N.Y.; and two grandsons. His wife of 37 years, the former Henrietta Strong, died in 1983.

The Goon Squad and Black Intellectual Responsibility in the Obama Age | Lester Spence

A Conversation With The Goon Squad – The Marc Steiner Show

The Goon Squad (Take:1) – Wendells Write

Remaining Goon Squad Members Look Back on ’68 Riots | Afro

University of Baltimore Celebrates City’s “Goon Squad” | Afro