Historical background of Richard Doby and his philanthropic efforts across Hillsborough County in the early 1900's
Hillsborough County is full of inspiring, iconic, and interesting places, and there are remarkable people behind them. In this occasional series we explore namesakes of some of the county's well-known communities, buildings, parks, and roads.
Who was Richard Doby?
Richard Cornelius Doby was born in Alachua County, Florida, on April 25, 1865. (It may be noted that some sources also reference 1864 and 1867 as other possible birth years.) Doby's parents, Richard and Amy Haynes, were natives of South Carolina. Historians assume that Doby's family moved to what is now Tampa's Hyde Park neighborhood around the time he was born or shortly thereafter. Doby had five sons and two daughters. Historians think he passed away in 1937 or 1938.
Though Doby did not have a formal education, he was a brilliant entrepreneur and owned businesses centered around delivering ice and collecting garbage. His financial acumen and hard work helped him purchase real estate in West Hyde Park and across Tampa.
Why name a neighborhood after Richard Doby?
Doby played a key role in establishing a community for Black people in West Hyde Park. He bought and donated land for the Dobyville School and provided funding to help build a church. In 1901, Doby purchased and gifted land for Zion Cemetery, the first cemetery in the city specifically for Black people. A burial ground for the community was highly needed since 10 percent of Tampa's Black population is thought to have lived in Dobyville by the late 1920s. This was in part due to many Dobyville residents being employed nearby as launderers, gardeners, butlers, and other jobs for Hyde Park's wealthy population.
Doby's generous and civic-minded contributions helped the community thrive into an aspirational, middle-class neighborhood. The historically Black neighborhood had several schools, a church, and Black-owned businesses. Dobyville provided a haven for people of color to worship, learn, work, and prosper together.
In 2007, a historical marker was erected by the Hillsborough County Historical Advisory Council to honor Dobyville. The marker is on West Platt Street at the intersection of South Willow Avenue. In 2023 Tampa City Council approved the expansion of the Hyde Park Local Historic District to include more of what was formerly Dobyville.