In the month of October 2011, we lost a giant of a man, Dock Fielder Jr. Dock was a man whose sense of commitment to Black progress is truly missed in our community, now more than ever. I state that fact with no fear of contradiction, because currently none exists, a complete void of Black political leadership. Those of us who were around during Dock’s era of leadership often had various views of Dock. Those persons with degrees often looked upon him as an uneducated politician and generally uninformed, others viewed him as a tough guy who was a loan shark, but it is my conviction that most persons did not really know Dock.
Dock and I met in the early 1940s as we played football together on Bedford Avenue at Ammons Field. Over the years we did not see each other that often. He moved to East Liberty (Larimer section) and became active in the Democratic Party. After graduating from Fifth Avenue High School I eventually went to the Army, got married, fathered three loving daughters, and I became involved in politics. I joined the ranks of the Republican Party and remained active from 1954 to the 1970s.
We moved to East Liberty where Dock and I reunited and formed a relationship that I became his left-hand man, and Tommy Martinelli was his right-hand man. Yes, we were absolutely friends until his death six years ago. Over the years I observed the growth of Dock Fielder and witnessed firsthand on many occasions as he would challenge the Governor, county commissioner and the mayor for the betterment of Black persons.
One Saturday we were having a ward meeting and the magistrate stopped in and said to the committee persons that “in the next couple of weeks he would make up his mind if he was going to run for reelection.” Twelfth Ward Democratic Chairman Dock Fielder stood up and said, “I have made your mind up for you, Eddie Tibbs will be the next magistrate. It’s Black folks’ turn. Eddie, stand up so he will know who you are.”
One day we were standing on Larimer Avenue and a person whom Dock had gotten a job for was being teased because he loved Dock. The individual replied by saying, “See that house across the street that needed some repairs, and the girl going in the door, she is a student at the University of Pitt, and that new car my wife just drove off in, that is the result of the job that Dock provided for me.”
I recollect the day I was in Dock’s office Downtown and his secretary had gone to lunch, a lady walked in, Dock asked me to see who she was and what she wanted and I did. She stated that she needed to see Dock and thank him, and Dock invited her in. She presented her business card and she was a PhD. The lady said, “You don’t know me, but 22 years ago you were responsible for me going to work and tomorrow I am retiring and I just wanted to thank you.” Dock asked, “Who are you?” Her response was, “Years ago I was having trouble finding a job after graduating from the University of Pitt, and I told my father. Daddy said, ‘Let me ask Dock Fielder,’ and you gave my father an application for Allegheny County, and the rest is history.”
Dock asked, “What’s your father’s name?” and she replied, and Dock simply said, “I knew him well, he was one of my committee persons.”
I would venture to state that Dock was responsible directly or indirectly for over 1,500 persons of color being employed; not one other Black person in this city can make that claim.
Dock Fielder Jr. was not perfect, but my Bible declares that “There is none perfect. No not one.”
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