POMPANO BEACH, Fla. – Annie Tisdale Dozier, a venerated leader whose tireless efforts and resiliency garnered respect and admiration from people who knew her and her accomplished children, died Dec. 6 at Broward General Hospital from complications of Alzheimer’s disease, her family said. She was 93.
The matriarch of the Dozier family, who worked to raise and support her 11 children, laid the groundwork for her their accomplishments by teaching them to work hard and overcome any obstacle that stymied their paths to progress, her offspring said.
"My mother gets all the credit for what has happened to me and my siblings," said the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, founder and senior pastor of the Worldwide Christian Center Church in Pompano Beach and a political heavyweight in South Florida. "We reflect her legacy."
Annie Tisdale Dozier was born in Kingstree, S.C. in 1928, where his mother’s parents were sharecroppers, Dozier said, and his mother and father tied the knot when she was 15 years old.
Dozier said he was born at 3 p.m. on a day when his mother had picked 300 pounds of cotton. "Anyone that picks cotton, you know you have to be working very hard to pick 300 pounds of cotton then and give birth on the same day."
His mother had birthed his previous siblings when she became pregnant with Dozier, and she didn’t want another baby, he said. A woman gave her a bottle of solution to drink weeks into her pregnancy so that the baby would be dissolved.
"The solution was equivalent to an abortion," Dozier said. His mother drank it, became sick, and prayed to God to take away the sickness but got worse.
"It was a message from the Lord not to take the solution," Dozier said. "My mother threw the bottle away and decided to have me. … I wouldn’t be here and people who know me I would have never met. I preach that in everyone’s life, God is using us. He has a plan for every one of us."
Dozier said his parents moved to Lake City, S.C. in 1953, and to Florida in 1955 when Dozier was 7. They came on a bus loaded with people to work on a migrant farm camp. The bus driver told his mother she couldn’t board because all of the seats were taken, he said, but a man gave up his seat and stood on the steps during the 12-hour bus ride.
Dozier said the family landed near State Road 7 south of Boynton Beach, where they picked string beans for three years. They went to school three days of the week and worked in the ﬁeld the other four days.
"It was really bad in those days," Dozier said. "But my mother was very determined to make a way for us." Dozier said his mother eventually had 27 grandchildren, 47 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren.
"WE HAD TO EAT"
Annie Mae Dozier Grover, 77, the oldest of the siblings, said she was 10 years old when her mother moved the family to Florida so they could eat.
She said her mother and father both worked in the cotton ﬁeld and at a tobacco factory in South Carolina. When the cotton season ended in the summer and the company closed the tobacco factory and moved it to North Carolina, the father continued to work there and the mother had to stay home with the kids. They moved to Florida after her mother’s cousin suggested they come live with her.
"We had to eat," she said. My dad didn’t send any money home for us. There were ﬁve children and we were starving. Moving to Florida was our change in life." Grover said her mother moved the family to Pompano Beach, where they were able to attend school regularly.
Annie Tisdale Dozier’s children continued on to professional careers from law, politics and ministry to education, state public service and domestic work, from which she retired from eight years ago, and credit their mother for their accomplishments.
O’Neal Dozier, for example, served two years in the U.S. Army, was drafted into the NFL and graduated from John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, Ga. in 1980. He not only has served as pastor of his church since it opened in 1985, but has made an impact in the judicial community.
In 2000, then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush selected him to serve on the 17th Circuit Judicial Nominating Commission of lawyers who help to ﬁll vacancies in Broward Circuit Court. He served for six years, during which he pushed for Black and Hispanic lawyers to be on the bench, which had none.
“Whether you go to the courthouses for civil or criminal matters, the bench should be a reflection of them,” said Dozier. “When I left the committee, six Blacks and Hispanics judges were on the bench, the ﬁrst time in Broward County."
Annie Mae Dozier Grover retired from the Florida Department of Revenue Child Support Division after 21 years and previously worked at First National Bank and Florida Power & Light.
As the oldest of the siblings, she had to babysit while her mother went to work, she said, but added that her mother never got angry or complained about the absence of their father. Her mother made the best of their circumstances, she said, and made sure they went to church each Sunday.
"She was determined to buy a house and she did," Grover said. "My mom was always nice to people and it rubbed off on us. We help people till this day, especially at the church."
Tyrell Dozier, a Broward County school teacher for the past 31 years, said his mother was his biggest cheerleader throughout his life. "My relationship with my mom was extremely close," he said. "I believe I was her favorite child because I’m the youngest."
Dozier, 57, said his mother cheered and prayed for him after he was paralyzed in a high school football game in 1980 when he was 15 years old. He had spinal cord surgery and endured rehabilitation and therapy to learn how to walk again, he said. Nine months after the accident, he could walk. He said his mother missed days from work to be by his side in the hospital and encouraged him during that difﬁcult time in his life.
"She was there to make sure I was taken care of," he said. "Anything I needed she made sure I had it. My mother was everything to me."
Dozier, who has four children including three triplet boys in college, said his mother would babysit for him when they were little and taught them valuable life lessons and special skills.
"I dropped them off to my mom and went to work and she taught them to do the things that she taught us," he said. "She loves her grandchildren."
Necie Dozier, an activities director for a nursing home in Broward County, said her mother uplifted her and gave her wisdom. "Instead of doubting you, she encouraged you," said Dozier, 59.
Reather Tillman, 74, who followed in her mother’s footsteps by earning a living as a domestic worker, said she lived with her mother up until her death. "We watched TV and movies together and she could make you laugh," she said. "She was a comedian."
Tillman said her mother was a "great" cook who loved serving up her favorite dishes for her family and friends. "She used to cook all the time," she said. "Beans, collard greens and biscuits, you name it she cooked it."
Betty Dozier, who retired as bus driver for a private company, said her mother was also like a sister to her. Dozier, 70, said when her mother brought her to work in the ﬁelds, Annie Dozier caught grasshoppers and butterflies for her to play with.
"My mother was everything to me," Dozier added. "She did everything for me. I love my mom. Even though she’s gone I still love her and always will."
Pearl Dozier, 65, said she and her mother often ﬁshed in a canal in Broward County, where Annie Dozier caught mullets. "She loved mullets," said Dozier, who retired from working as a dietary aide in a nursing home.
Dozier said when she moved to Georgia in 1998, her mother encouraged her to ﬁnd a church there and pay her tithes. "My mother was very heavy on paying tithes," she said.
Dozier said she loved to pay surprise visits that lit up her mother. "All of the kids have keys to her house and I would sneak in the back door and pop up and surprise her," she said. "She greeted me with a big smile and a big hug. Those were the best times we had with our mother."
Lillie Mae Jones, 62, said her mother attended her kids’ Pop Warner and high school football games, especially on days she had to work.
Jones, who retired from the Broward County Health Department after 30 years, said she and her mother would attend her son’s college football games when he played at the University of Georgia. They traveled to home and away games to watch Jefferey Owens, who played nose tackle for the Bulldogs.
"We made every game while he was in college," said Jones. "We bought plane tickets and hotel expenses for his games and Bowl games."
Jones said when her son tore his ACL during his senior season, her mother encouraged him during his rehab and to never give up on his dream of playing in the NFL. The Philadelphia Eagles drafted Owens in 2010 in the seventh round before he tore his ACL again which ended his career.
"My mother was always a good mother and grandmother," Jones said. "She made sure she was there to support us all the way and I love her for that."