Ralph Dobbins was born on August 25, 1892, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, to parents Henry and Mary Sutton Dobbins. His siblings included brothers J.C., Henry, and Calvin and sisters Margret, Pearl, Philis, and Josie. His father worked as a day laborer and his mother and older sisters as laundresses. The family moved when Ralph was young to Tunnel Hill, Whitfield County, Georgia, just south of Chattanooga. On May 21, 1916, Dobbins married Tommie Alexander, and the couple moved to Chicago soon after the marriage, where he worked as a laborer for the Western Foundry Company. In 1917 he registered for the draft for service in World War I. However, Dobbins did not see service overseas, as he passed away on September 13, 1918, at Camp Grant Army Base in Rockford, Illinois. He is buried at Chattanooga National Cemetery in Chattanooga, Tennessee, 13062-B.

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