Laid out in a white suit, matching English driving cap, gold shirt and tie, and with a cigar in his breast pocket, Dock Fielder Jr. was as dapper in death as in life.
And it was his life that was celebrated by the hundreds who gathered at Pentecostal Temple in East Liberty for his funeral service, Oct. 7.
|GOING HOME—Pallbearers, including sons and grandsons, carry Dock Fielder from Pentecostal Temple after his Oct. 7 funeral service.
Shuman Juvenile Detention Center Director William “Jack” Simmons said he was somewhat surprised there weren’t more in attendance.
“The people he put on the (Allegheny) County payroll alone could have filled this place,” he said. “Dock was a friend, a neighbor, even a client. And if he said he supported you—he supported you. When I ran for Clerk of Courts in 1983, as a Republican, he had my name printed on slate cards he handed out—the Democratic ward chairman.”
Simmons was among several who spoke during the service of Fielder’s importance to the local, state and national Democratic Party, and of his loyalty to his neighborhood and community.
Fielder was the first African-American elected chair of the 12th Ward. He held the post from 1976 until he retired in 2004. He also served as executive assistant to Allegheny County Commissioner Tom Forester. As such he was able to consistently marshal votes—or deny them—to political office seekers in exchange for jobs members of his community needed.
Pennsylvania Superior Court Judge Cheryl Allen called him “a patriot.”
“A politician is concerned about the next election. A patriot is concerned about the next generation,” she said. “We have the Kingsley Association facility because of him. He influenced many people including me.”
Common Pleas Court Judges Joseph K. Williams and Tom Flaherty both noted Fielder’s savvy. Williams called him a statesman, who realized that by joining forces with other Black ward chairman like Euzel “Bubby” Hairston, he could control a block of nearly 15,000 votes.
“He had a clear vision of how he could affect change,” said Williams.
Flaherty said Fielder did exactly that for him in a very tight city council race and saved his career. But the greatest example came after Democrat Mike Dawida said he didn’t need the Black vote to win his race for County Commissioner. Fielder said, “then don’t give it to him.”
Dawida and running mate Colleen Vuono lost when all those votes went to Republicans Larry Dunn and Bob Cranmer. Though he did not speak during the service, Larry Dunn was there.
“Dock was a flamboyant character with a great laugh, and his support counted,” said Flaherty. “He didn’t always win, but he could always hold people accountable—and Larry Dunn sitting right there is the living embodiment of that.”
There is perhaps no one better suited to commenting on flamboyance than former County Commissioner and former County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht. He said Fielder—with his size, his one bad eye and his gruff demeanor—cut such an imposing figure, that “it was really unfair.”
“He was a man that Damon Runyon on LSD couldn’t have conjured up,” said Wecht. “But it was his loyalty, his effectiveness and his truthfulness that set him apart. He never vacillated or told you what you wanted to hear. He always said what he meant—and that is the genuine coin of the realm in politics. Remember what he did, and emulate him. That is the way to honor him.”
In addition to the remembrances, which also included thoughts from Louis “Hop” Kendrick, former Magistrate Edward Tibbs and state Rep. Joe Preston, D-East Liberty, the service also featured Biblical readings by Rev. William King, testimonials read by family members Minister Tamera Allan and Leah Kirkland.
Sonya Carter performed “His Eyes Are On The Sparrow” and “Stand.” Bishop David Brock, pastor at Koinonia Church of Pittsburgh gave the Eulogy. Following the service, Fielder was interred at Allegheny Cemetery.
(Send comments to email@example.com.)