Fondly called Dothee, Dottie, Dot and Dorothea by family and friends, Dorothy Jean Toombs was born in Ripley, Tennessee, on July 27, 1950. She was the second eldest of eleven children born to James and Louise (Mann) Toombs, both natives of Tennessee. Dorothy migrated as a small child with her family to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where the family would settle and reside for decades.
Along with her siblings, Dorothy attended Milwaukee Public Schools and graduated from Lincoln High School. Later, she attended Bryant & Stratton College, where she studied Business and subsequently worked for a short time in banking. An interest in medicine, however, led her to the City of Milwaukee Health Department, where she worked as a Medical Assistant for more than 20 years.
After retirement, Dorothy launched into her second career, as well as entrepreneurship. Acting on her passion for writing and an abiding interest in current events, she became a journalist—first at the Milwaukee Community Journal in the early 1980s, and later, at The Milwaukee Times Weekly Newspaper. Aside from her many contributions to The Milwaukee Times, Dorothy was a key developer of stories and coverage of the newspaper’s annual Black Excellence Awards.
In 1992, Dorothy founded the Black Clowns Association (later known as the African-American Clowns Association) to help children navigate the pain and trauma caused by violence in the community. In 1994, after being nominated by the Black Women’s Network, Inc., Dorothy received her own Black Excellence Award for her creative work in Milwaukee’s vibrant arts and entertainment community– specifically for founding the Black Clowns Association. Forever the trailblazer, Dorothy paved the way for the new expression of an old art form by being one of the first Black female clowns in an industry dominated by white male clowns. Dorothy employed, led, and performed alongside a co-ed troupe of clowns of all ages, bringing smiles to countless faces at Milwaukee’s annual African World Festival, Juneteenth Day celebrations, Summerfest, and private parties during the 1990s and throughout the 2000s.
Black lives always mattered to Dorothy.
An activist with a strong sense of pride in her Black community, Dorothy was always working within the community through social engagement activities to empower and inspire its members. As an avid supporter and friend, Dorothy facilitated public relations for the Wisconsin Black Cowboys and Buffalo Soldiers Association, with whom she appeared at numerous events over the years. She also worked as a counselor for the Women’s Crisis Line, was a member and supporter of the Milwaukee Inner City Arts Council, tutored children in Milwaukee Public Schools, and even curated art displays at the Milwaukee Public Library’s Atkinson Branch for years.
Dorothy found peace on Friday August 7, 2020. She is survived by her husband of 42 years Kenneth, daughter Dominique, son Shanon Wood, six grandchildren, and one great-grandson.