GALVESTON, TX — Ray Dohn Dillon passed from this life on May 5, 2021. Born September 22, 1929, in Tylertown, Mississippi, he moved to Galveston, Texas at a very young age. He attended Shiloh A.M.E. Church and Galveston public schools.
He was a Central High School Bearcat defense back and running back, member of the state championship football team, and Class of 1948.
He attended Prairie View A&M College of Texas from 1948-1952 with a major in physical education. Affectionately known as “Tank” was the first to make All-American football player three years in a row, and in 1988 he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame for football and track.
After notable accomplishments at Central High School and Prairie View College, he made history as the first black man to enter the National Football League (NFL) from Galveston Island and from Prairie View A&M College. He was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1952. Although an excellent player, racial segregation was still prevalent and he, along with other blacks, was cut from the team. He was welcomed by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats in Ontario’s Canadian Football League (CFL) where his team won the CFL’s Grey Cup championship.
He returned home to Galveston after a knee injury and went to work for the City of Galveston’s Wright Cuney Center as their Recreation Director. He eventually returned to his alma mater, Central High School, and began to coach football under Head Coach Ray Shepherd. There he met and then married Irene C. Walker, a science teacher from Houston, Texas. They established their home near Central High School and dedicated their time and attention to their students and serving in the community.
Segregation combined all-black Central High School with all-white Ball High School into one high school for all. There he coached football alongside Kermit Courville and taught swimming to many students.
While still employed with Ball High School, he earned a master’s degree in Guidance Counseling at Prairie View and became Chief of Human Relations and Attendance for Galveston I.S.D. He supervised the district’s paraprofessionals and was a liaison for the school district with the Juvenile Division of the Galveston Police Department.
He desired to not only keep kids in school by derailing truancy but to communicate directly with parents and aid in rearing them. For the numerous children that he coached, taught, advised, chastised, disciplined, encouraged, loved, and laughed with, they were not only thankful but better adults because of it.
He owned and operated 29th & Ave. M Grocery Store from the mid-’70s to mid-’90s. There, he and his family provided a need in the neighborhood and served the community.
Even after he retired from the school district and closed the store, he spent his days driving throughout the neighborhoods, to wave and talk with people, to remain present in their lives, and to serve where he was able. He had an unending desire to make an impact in the lives of those in his community. Those whom he touched, he changed. He was “Ray Dohn,” “Tank,” “Coach,” “Marshall Dillon,” “Mr. Dillon”...He was loved!
Preceding his passing were his mother Velma Dillon Prince, father Alton Harris, wife Irene Walker Dillon, and brothers Easley Dillon, Sr. (Mary), and Clifton Prince, Jr.
Ray Dohn departed peacefully at home on May 5, 2021, in the care of his devoted daughter Dealisa and son-in-law Kodel Frazier. He leaves to cherish his memories siblings Clifford Prince (Celestine), Alex Joel Prince (Sharon), Delores Prince Anderson (James), and Audrey Sandifer Brown; children Ray Don Dillon, Cynthia Strange, Dealisa Dillon-Frazier (Kodel), and Irene Dillon; grandchildren Dana Strange, Myka Ebone’ Strange-Lundy (Ken), Shantel Dillon, Elaine Crawford, Chelsea Simmons, and Sean Dillon; and godchild Elizabeth Coleman (Donald). He has loving great-grandchildren, other family members, and an abundance of close friends that will miss him dearly.
He was a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. Gamma Pi Lamba Chapter of Galveston, the Prairie View A&M Alumni Association, and the Ex-Prairie View Interscholastic League Coaches Association.
The Family will receive friends during a Memorial Service and Repast Friday, May 14, 2021, 5:00 P.M. at Old Central Cultural Center 2627 Avenue M, Galveston, Texas 77550. Officiating will be Pastor Michael Dwyer. Final care entrusted to Wynn Funeral Home.