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John Wesley Dobbs / Prince Hall Masons Collection

Identifier: aarl016-001

Scope and Contents

The John Wesley Dobbs / Prince Hall Mason Collection consists of 2.5 linear feet of materials, 1950 to 1968. Arranged in two series: Personal papers, and Photographs which appears to be items that belong to Mr. Joseph Phinazee.


  • Majority of material found within 1950 - 1990

Biographical / Historical

The unofficial “Mayor” of Auburn Avenue, John Wesley Dobbs was born in Marietta, Georgia and married Irene Ophelia Thompson in 1906. As a result of this union, were six daughters, Irene Carolyn, Willie Juliet, Millicent Doris, Josephine Ophelia, Mattiwilda, and June Serena, all of whom graduated from Spelman College. Dobbs was the grand-father of Maynard Jackson, Jr., the first African American mayor of Atlanta. J. W. Dobbs was an American postal clerk, social reformer, and civic leader. After moving to Atlanta in 1897, Dobbs worked at Dr. James McDougal’s Drugstore and attended Atlanta Baptist College (Morehouse College). In 1903 he passed the US Postal Exam and became a railway mail clerk for the United States Post Office, a position that he held for 32 years. Dobbs became a member of The Prince Hall Masons in 1911 and in 1932 he was elected Grand Master of the Prince Hall Masons, the position he held for of his life. Dobbs was also the founder of the Atlanta Civic and Political League and later along with A. T. Walden co-founded the Atlanta Negro Voters League. The Atlanta Negro Voters League (ANVL) was a political organization which focused on mobilizing the strength of black voters in Georgia. John Wesley Dobbs was inducted into the masons in 1911 and was elected Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons, Jurisdiction of Georgia in 1932 and was re-elected yearly until his death in 1961. The Prince Hall Masons, a fraternal order -was known to attract socially conscious leaders within the African American community therefor Dobbs spent the rest of his life working for racial equality and fighting against oppression.

During the illness and death, of the man known for the saying “Sweet Auburn” many famous people brought well wishes to the family. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of the speakers at the funeral, and Thurgood Marshall, head of the NAACP and future Supreme Court Justice, served as a pallbearer.

Since his death, John Wesley Dobbs has had many accolades. He has been honored with an elementary school named in his honor, a monument called “Through His Eyes” and he received a lasting tribute on January 10, 1994, when the then Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson, and grandson of Dobbs changed the name of Houston Street, site of the Dobbs home to John Wesley Dobbs Avenue.


2.5 Linear Feet



Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Auburn Avenue Research Library on African-American Culture and History Repository

101 Auburn Avenue NE
Atlanta GA 30303