Biography of Oliver B. Dobbins

Oliver B. Dobbins. As a lawyer Oliver B. Dobbins has gained some of the better distinctions and successes of the profession. He has been in practice in the profession in Champaign County twenty-three years. His ability is sought in cases of more than ordinary importance. During his career Mr. Dobbins has appeared in more than a hundred cases in the Supreme and Appellate Courts of the state. Of such cases he has succeeded in winning at a ratio of three out of four, and at one time he secured favorable decisions in twelve successive appeals. An individual distinction of which any lawyer might be proud is that he procured the largest judgment ever rendered in Champaign County in an action for fraud sixty thousand dollars. Mr. Dobbins has made a specialty of organizing and representing drainage districts, having organized and appeared as attorney for fifty such districts. His work in that line now covers a dozen counties.

As a public leader Mr. Dobbins’ name is synonymous with high ideals and the better element of local citizenship. In national politics he has always been a Democrat, and has also been closely identified with anti-saloon work. In 1896 as county chairman of the Democratic party he had th,e honor of piloting the party to its first county victory in fifty years.

From 1913 to 1915 Mr. Dobbins was mayor of Champaign. That administration will have a notable place in a subsequent survey of the city’s history. A body of business men interested in the welfare of Champaign obtained a petition signed by six hundred persons to induce Mr. Dobbins to accept the nomination as leader of an independent movement to clean out the dives and joints with which the city was infested. A voluntary subscription of $800 was pledged for the campaign. Mr. Dobbins was elected by an overwhelming vote, exceeding that of the regular Republican and Democratic candidates combined. People did not have to wait long to find out what he would do in office. His was a truly reform administration. It was marked by a continuous and unrelenting fight to make the city clean. During that fight one of his policemen was murdered and the chief of police was shot. His administration was not confined entirely to the moral benefit and uplift. There also ensued an immense amount of public improvement, particularly noticeable in police and fire departments and in street improvements. Mr. Dobbins’ name appears as mayor on either the ordinances or warrants for pavements laid on sixteen streets of the city.

Oliver B. Dobbins was born at Gallatin, Tennessee, December 6, 1870, and is of old Southern and Revolutionary stock. His great-grandfather Dobbins fought with the Carolina Rangers under the leadership of Marion in the Revolutionary War. His grandfather, Henry Dobbins, was born at Gallatin, Tennessee, in 1798, was a planter in that state, and died there in November, 1870. He was a Whig and a member of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church.

Foster Dobbins, father of the Champaign lawyer, was born at Gallatin, Tennessee, May 19, 1838, grew up there, and served one year in the Confederate army during the war. He was taken prisoner at the battle of Murfreesboro, was confined for a short time at Nashville, and on being paroled came North and taught school at Toronto until the close of hostilities. In February, 1871, he settled with his family at Bushnell in McDonough County, Illinois, in 1875 removed to Gibson City in Ford County, and 1876 to a farm in East Bend Township of Champaign County. He was actively engaged in farming there until 1899, when he removed to Urbana, where his death occurred in April, 1908. In politics he was a Whig until the war and after that a Democrat. His religious affiliation was with the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Foster Dobbins married Margaret Beard, who was born at Gallatin, Tennessee, December 8, 1844, came to Illinois in 1871 and died in Champaign County, October 30, 1881, when her son Oliver B. was ten years of age. She was a daughter of Henry and Hannah (Sloan) Beard. Foster Dobbins and wife were married at Nashville, Tennessee, in 1866, and became the parents of seven children, five of whom are still living.

Oliver B. Dobbins had three uncles, brothers of his mother, and one paternal uncle, who were killed during the Civil War.

Mr. Dobbins was six years of age when the family removed to Champaign County. He attended the common schools, and in 1888-89 was a student in the Illinois State Normal University at Normal. Four years of his early career were spent as a teacher in Champaign and Ford counties. From 1892 to 1894 he attended the Wesleyan University at Bloomington, where he was graduated in the law course in June, 1894, and on his degree of LL. B. was admitted to practice. On the 24th of June in the same year he opened his office at Urbana with Spencer M. White, under the firm name of White & Dobbins. After seven years this firm was dissolved and Mr. Dobbins removed to Champaign, where in 1891 he formed a partnership with J. L. Ray as Ray & Dobbins. Mr. Ray retired on account of ill health in 1914 and Mr. Dobbins has since practiced with his brother D. C. Dobbins, under the firm name of Dobbins & Dobbins.

Mr. Dobbins is a member of the Presbyterian Church, belongs to the Champaign County Country Club and the Champaign Club, and is a Mason and Elk. He was married December 15, 1897, to Miss Edith Leonard, who was born at Elliot, Illinois, July 13, 1874. They have three children: Ray F. Dobbins, born November 26, 1901, and a junior in the Champaign High School; Dorothy, a freshman in the same school, born September 4, 1903; and Leonard, born September 26, 1907, attending the grade schools.



Stewart, J. R. A Standard History of Champaign County Illinois. The Lewis Publishing Company, Chicago and New York. 1918.

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