AMHERST - The Rev. Franklin A. Dorman, United Church of Christ minister, activist, tireless champion of issues relating to social justice, and author of three books on genealogy, died July 3, 2012, in Boston. He was 85.
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Frank was best known to his family and friends as an inspiring community organizer who used his ministry to focus first and foremost on the needs of the poor and disenfranchised and influenced others to work with hope, patience and determination to end war as a means of solving the world's complex problems.
Born April 29, 1927, in New York City, Frank was the son of Franklin W. and Elizabeth (Rathbone) Dorman. He was raised in Englewood, N.J., and attended the Englewood School for Boys, entering Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire in 1941 and graduating in 1944. He entered Princeton University in the summer of 1944, enlisted in the Navy that fall and returned to Princeton in 1946, where he graduated in 1949.
In 1948, Frank married Geraldine Laud-Brown (born Englewood 1926; divorced 1973 in Amherst, died San Francisco 2007) to whom he was married for 25 years. Together they had five children.
After graduation, Frank trained as a salesman for Pan American Airways in New York. He later attended Columbia Teacher's College in New York and in 1951 was hired by Tabor Academy in Marion to teach Spanish and coach football and lacrosse.
The following year was spent in Spain, where Frank did graduate work toward a master's degree at the University of Madrid under the auspices of Middlebury College. In 1956, he joined the faculty of the Pingry School in Elizabeth, N.J., where he taught Spanish, coached football and lacrosse, and did college counseling until 1963. To this day he is remembered by his former students as an outstanding coach and teacher with a great sense of humor.
Frank became increasingly attracted to the spiritual power of the civil rights movement, which led him to enroll in Drew Theological School in Madison, N.J., to study ministry. In 1964, responding to Dr. Martin Luther King's call for nonviolent action, he travelled to Alabama to take part in the final stages of the Selma to Montgomery March.
He graduated magna cum laude from the theological school in 1966 and was ordained that same year to the ministry of the United Church of Christ. He was called to the pastorate of North Amherst Congregational Church (UCC) in Amherst in the fall of 1966 where he remained pastor until 1971.
During his more than two decades of ministry with the United Church of Christ, Frank devoted his life to social activism and issues of war, social justice and equality. He participated in many civil rights, anti-war, anti-nuclear and pro-choice demonstrations resulting in 19 arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience.
During this time he worked for Clergy and Laity Concerned in Western Massachusetts as peace activist and organizer. He also worked with Witness for Peace from 1983 to 1990, serving as the Massachusetts coordinator, including organizing a Lenten walk for peace across Massachusetts in solidarity with Nicaragua in 1987. He also served as the Just Peace coordinator for the Massachusetts conference of the United Church of Christ.
In 1979 he married Jennifer Jones and settled in Cambridge and worked at the Harvard Divinity School until 1989. After retirement, Frank developed a passion for genealogy and wrote three books on genealogy, most notably the well-received "Twenty Families of Color in Massachusetts," published in 1998. This book brought to light the legacies of 20 Boston-area African-American families throughout American history. Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California recognized him for this enduring and valuable contribution.
Frank enjoyed many reunions with his large extended family, but especially the family gatherings on Martha's Vineyard, where the whole clan enjoyed swimming and beach time, great communal meals, and hanging out on the large screened-in porch swapping stories and participating in always lively and provocative conversation.
Frank is survived by Jennifer Jones, his wife of 33 years; sisters Betty Jane Crawford of Eagle, Colo., and Arlene Sanford of York, Maine; seven children, Franklin W. Dorman of Holyoke, Betsy Dorman of South Portland, Maine, Ann Dorman of San Francisco, Jim Dorman of Los Angeles, Marena Garza of Exeter, Debby Jones of New York City and Sarah Jones of London; 13 grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.
Services will be held Saturday, July 7, at 11:30 a.m. at First Church in Cambridge, 11 Garden St., Cambridge, MA 02138. Funeral arrangements are being made by Andersen-Bryant Funeral Home in Stoneham.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Witness for Peace, www.witnessforpeace.org.
Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on July 5, 2012