Family and friends gathered around Dr. Bill Dobbs bedside at Newton Medical Center Sunday as he passed away after complications from a fall he suffered days earlier.
Dobbs was instrumental in Covington’s growth for four decades and has been a fixture of its community since becoming an optometrist in 1950. He served on the city council from 1964 until being elected mayor in 1970, but it was his all-around personality and ability to get things done that he will leave behind.
“He’ll be known for that, plus he was an optimist for goodness knows how many years,” Sam Ramsey said. “He was a very level-headed person. He thought things through before he did them and was a good one at getting a consensus of the council before he did something.”
Ramsey served on Covington’s planning commission for 15 years and on the council under Dobbs’ for 15 years, seeing the mayor’s ability to get things done firsthand.
One of Dobbs’ and his council’s biggest contribution was developing Covington’s industrial park. He helped usher in the third phase of Covington’s industrial growth, after Walker Harris brought in some industries, and the Covington Businessman’s Association continued that growth.
Then Dobbs helped secure the land for the industrial park. To do that he used his power of getting people to cooperate, in this instance it was the city of Covington and Newton County.
“Those were great times, the city and county had the opportunity to buy some land that is now a part of the Industrial Park, and we came together and bought it half and half,” said Dobbs’ friend Rob Fowler, who was on the city council for 16 years. “Rather than arguing what percentages one should pay, we just agreed. Dr. Dobbs and Roy Varner would make a deal and we would back them.”
Also during Dobbs’ tenure as mayor, he helped shape the city’s roads, such as the widening of Washington Street.
Other than his projects as mayor, Dobbs also contributed to Covington through his practice as an optometrist. For more than 50 years he helped the people of Covington see clearer.
Even when they couldn’t afford it, Dobbs was there to help the people who came into his office.
“There’s no telling how many eye glasses he made,” Ramsey said. “Even if people couldn’t afford it, he just gave it to them. He was a good-hearted person.”
That good-hearted nature stayed with him until the end.
As pastor Edward Beckham stood over Dobbs reading his last rights and leading the Lord’s Prayer, Dobbs still had good things to say to his family and friends.
“He was (coming in and out of sleep) telling his son how much he loved him; he said to me how much he loved me,” said Fowler, who was at NMC Sunday afternoon. “There was probably six of us standing there. It was just beautiful. It was heartwarming and heart-touching. It was a great picture of how we would all like to go.”
Visitation for Dobbs will be at Caldwell and Cowan Funeral Home on Floyd Street from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday and the service will be Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Turner Lake Recreation Department.