The Rev. Marvin Dozier was a student at Southampton High School in the 1960s when he led protests to get the school district to hire black teachers and institute black studies courses.
Decades later, in 2005, he rose to become the first black president of the Southampton Board of Education.
On Long Island’s South and North forks, Dozier — also the longtime pastor of a Baptist church in Mattituck — made an impact as he combined church ministry with a dedication to social and racial justice, friends and relatives said.
“He was somebody to be reckoned with,” said the Rev. Charles Coverdale of The First Baptist Church of Riverhead. “He was a person of great integrity, and people knew him. He was a man of his word, and he could build bridges with people.”
Dozier, of Southampton, died June 17 at Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, formerly known as Southampton Hospital, where he was born in 1952. He died of stomach and colon cancer, said one of his daughters, Andrea Dozier of Brooklyn. He was 66.
Marvin Dozier once recalled in a Newsday interview that in 2000 Southampton was about to select a new schools superintendent, “and yet we had no voice, as an African-American community.”
He was appointed to the board that December, and in May 2001 won a seat. By 2005 he was elevated to the board’s top position. Dozier’s daughter recalled that he was not universally welcomed, and Dozier himself noted the same.
“I was very much marginalized and there were people who just didn’t want to take black leadership,” he told Newsday in 2008. “My goal was simply to open up our education system. To make sure that our Native American, our African-American, our Hispanic brothers and sisters are all going to get an equal play.”
His daughter said Dozier wanted to serve on the school board and engage in other community work because “he was a service-oriented leader. He was really committed to Southampton and the East End of Long Island. He was committed to ensuring that everybody had equal opportunity and racial equity.”
Dozier had a long history in the community, dating to his early 20s when he worked as director of the Bridgehampton Community Center, which provided services for young people. He later moved to the Southampton Youth Association, where he spent 44 years as executive director overseeing sports and character development programs.
He served as pastor of the Unity Baptist Church in Mattituck for 29 years, president of the East End Baptist Pastors’ Council, and chairman of Religious Affairs for the Eastern Long Island NAACP. He was also a founder of the Southold Anti-Bias Task Force. Along with Coverdale, he served for some 30 years as a chaplain at the Suffolk County jails in Riverhead and Yaphank.
Dozier was a veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and a graduate of Suffolk County Community College. He also earned a bachelor’s degree in American studies from Long Island University Southampton College with a minor in secondary education.
He told Newsday that “I’m an activist that probably began — in high school. Because it was around the time of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, H. Rap Brown. All of these guys . . . had an influence upon me back in those years . . . We really got involved with marching and making demands and really bringing about change here.”
“I’ve evolved over the years to really believe — with my call to ministry in 1980 — that if I could really help someone spiritually, I would also help them economically, politically and also socially,” Dozer said.
Along with his daughter Andrea, he is also survived by his wife, Sandra Saunders Dozier of Southampton; his oldest daughter, Alicia Dozier Austin of Riverhead; a sister, Denise Dozier of Stockbridge, Georgia; two brothers, Marcel Dozier, Jr. of Fairburn, Georgia, and Mark A. Dozier of Newport News, Virginia; and two grandchildren, Arianna Dozier of Southampton and Alfred Austin Jr. of Riverhead.
Wakes were held in Southampton and Mattituck, with a funeral service in Riverhead. Burial was at Calverton National Cemetery.