On most mornings for nearly the past six decades, the Reverend Marvin Dozier, a Southampton resident and the pastor at Unity Baptist Church in Mattituck for the past 30 years, could be found eating breakfast with his daughters, Alicia Austin and Andrea Dozier, or his lifelong friends, Herman Lamison and Juni Wingfield, or countless other members of the community whom he supported through faith and mentorship.
Each morning, they would gather to talk about their families, their faith and their community. “It was a precious time that we carved out to know that it was never about quantity, it was about quality,” said Mr. Wingfield, who sits on the Board of Trustees of the Southampton Youth Association, which Mr. Dozier helped found.
Breaking bread, as his family calls it, was Mr. Dozier’s way of forming relationships and connecting with the community in which he was born, on February 8, 1952, to Marcel and Audrey Dozier. Having lived in Southampton Village for all of his life, graduating from Southampton High School in 1970, Mr. Dozier, the director of the Southampton Youth Association and the first African-American president of the Southampton School Board, was known for his generosity and selflessness — and is now being remembered for his service and his commitment to the community and the church.
Mr. Dozier, who often went by the nickname “Rev,” died Sunday after battling stomach and colon cancer. The longtime resident of Southampton Village was 66.
“I’ve never seen anybody who asked for help that he didn’t help,” Mr. Dozier’s younger brother, Mark Dozier, remembered on Tuesday.
Whenever anyone needed him, the reverend was there, Andrea Dozier, his youngest daughter recalled, noting that he sometimes left their house, which he bought in the 1970s and completely renovated, in the middle of the night to help struggling families.
In addition to his role at SYA, where he guided local youth and worked to build their character through sports, Mr. Dozier spent his days counseling families, attending school conferences for other children, counseling families and holding weekly sermons both at his church in Mattituck and, on Mondays and Wednesdays, at the Suffolk County jails in Yaphank and Riverhead.
“I remember in elementary school one day, it was like a Wednesday, and my teacher asked about where my dad was, and I said, ‘He’s in jail,’” Ms. Dozier said, laughing, noting that her father got her ready and took her to school every day as a child. “He wanted to provide spiritual counseling and support to people who were in that situation, because he believed that regardless of your circumstances and what you’ve done, there’s something ahead and you can turn it around. I think in his heart, he believed that everyone has good intentions, and he didn’t judge people for what they’ve done. He could really see the light in everybody.”
Growing up, Ms. Dozier, who now works as a principle at a charter school in Brooklyn, said she remembered her dad constantly working and advocating for social and racial justice in the community.
His wife, Sandra Saunders Dozier, said that Mr. Dozier, who was a lifelong member of the NAACP, had been passionate about such things since he was in high school and, as a junior, held a walk-out protesting the lack of a single black faculty member.
After later graduating, Mr. Dozier enlisted in the Air Force and served for two years before being honorably discharged and then receiving an associate degree from Suffolk County Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Long Island University, where he studied American studies and secondary education.
Ms. Saunders Dozier remembered that even after he received his degree, some businesses wouldn’t hire him because he was black. Years later, in 2002, Mr. Dozier was elected to the Southampton School Board, on which he served for 10 years. He became the board’s first black president in 2009.
Although they didn’t realize it at the time, Ms. Dozier, and her older sister, who graduated in 1998 and is now the office manager at SYA, said having their dad on the board was a blessing, especially because Mr. Dozier was able to personally give Ms. Dozier her high school diploma in 2003.
“I think we were just proud of Daddy,” Ms. Dozier said. “Both of my parents fought for our rights throughout elementary, middle and high school.”
In addition to leading a life of advocacy and faith alongside her husband, Ms. Saunders Dozier did much of the paperwork for the church, and worked as a team with her husband, who she met at the First Baptist Church of Riverhead when she was just 16 years old.
“He called me for a date, and I refused at that time, and then, 10 years later, I was singing for the choirs, and he was preaching, and then he called again and asked for forgiveness,” she remembered. “I refused one more time. Then, finally, I agreed and our first date was at the White House Inn in Coram, New York.”
Ms. Dozier recalled some of her favorite memories of her parents and said that every Christmas her dad would joke and say he didn’t buy her mom a gift, but at the last second he would pull out something special, like a diamond ring or a fur coat.
Ever year the Dozier family would attend the SYA summer barbecue, an event which often draws scores of community members to the elementary school. Alicia Dozier remembered when she participated in an SYA bike-a-thon in 1997 a got hit by a car, and her dad came running to help.
“He always helped people,” Ms. Dozier said, noting that when her sister was pregnant with her first child, Arianna Dozier, her dad catered to her every craving, driving to 7-Eleven and McDonald’s in the middle of the night to make sure she had everything she needed.
Mr. Dozier raised Arianna, 17, who is now a junior at Southampton High School, and at his last sermon, on Sunday, June 3, sang “His Eyes on the Sparrow” with her.
Remembering his last sermon, Ms. Dozier said: “He was lively. He was dancing in the pulpit. I think his ministry really expanded over the last six or seven months.”
Those close to Mr. Dozier said that he considered himself to be on a “faith walk” since finding out his illness had advanced in November 2017. He continued to address the congregation even while he was undergoing chemotherapy.
In addition to his commitment to the community and the church, Mr. Dozier founded the Anti-Bias Task Force in Southold in 1995 and is the president of the East End Baptist Pastors Council. He has also received honorary awards from Suffolk Country Community College, the CICA International University and the SUNY EOP system.
“I do think that his community commitment has a lot to do with his faith in God and his beliefs around loving your brother and loving your sister,” said Ms. Dozier, who may be taking over her father’s role at the SYA, according to Mr. Wingfield. “Everything he did was in line with what he believed in and his belief that we should try to be more like God every day.”
Remembering his friend, and all the work he did to make the community a better place for struggling families and people of color, Mr. Wingfield said: “He died the same way he lived. He died with such peace and such dignity, making the world feel not sadness, but love.”
Mr. Dozier leaves behind his wife, Sandra Saunders Dozier; his daughter, Andrea Dozier and her fiancé, Chauncey Nartey; his daughter Alicia Austin and her husband, Alfred Austin; his granddaughter, Arianna Dozier; his grandson, Alfred Austin Jr.; and many other family members and friends.
Services for Mr. Dozier will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 23, at Unity Baptist Church in Mattituck and from 4 to 6 p.m. on Sunday at Brockett Funeral Home in Southampton. A Home-Going Celebration is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Monday, June 25, at the First Baptist Church in Riverhead and internment will take place at 2 p.m. at Calverton National Cemetery.
Following the burial, the family will hold a repast at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Hamptons in Southampton.
Photo caption: Rev. Martin Dozier of the Unity Baptist Church in Mattituck. (Andrea L. Dozier courtesy photo)