His detractors ridiculed him as “Al the Pal.”
His supporters never quite saw that as an insult.
Former Sen. Alan J. Mr. Dixon carved out a four-decade long career in Illinois’ rough-and-tumble politics by essentially being a nice guy.
Opponents dimissed him as an old-school glad hander. But the Belleville Democrat prided himself on being able to get along with Democrats and Republicans alike and “sit down and make a deal.”
Mr. Dixon, 86, died Sunday morning at his downstate home.
Sen. Dixon became police magistrate when he was still a law student — the same year Harry S Truman was inaugurated for a full-term as president: 1949.
He won every election after that: for state representative, state senator, state treasurer, secretary of state, before winning election to the Senate in 1981. He was re-elected six years later.
“I got beat once, that’s a pretty good average,” Sen. Dixon told an interviewer in 2002.
He added: “I was smart enough when I got beat to quit.”
* From his hometown paper, the Belleville News-Democrat…
Former Gov. James Thompson, a Republican and 40-year friend of Dixon, said Sunday he last saw Dixon a year ago when he was signing copies of his book “The Gentleman from Illinois.” Thompson wrote the book’s forward.
“He was just a magnificent guy to know. He did the state of Illinois proud,” Thompson said. “He used to say, ‘Listen, pal, we can get these things done.’” […]
Dixon is survived by his wife Joan “Jody” Dixon, and three children, Stephanie (Doug) Yearian, of Waterloo; Jeffrey (Stacy) Dixon, of Chicago; Elizabeth (Stuart) Megaw, of Fairfax, Va. He is also survived by eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements for Dixon are pending at Renner Funeral Home.
Last year, Dixon published a memoir titled, “The Gentleman From Illinois: Stories From Forty Years of Elective Public Service.”
“Generally speaking, my political career was built on goodwill and accommodation,” he wrote. […]
[Carol] Moseley Braun, who won the three-way [1992 Democratic primary against Dixon and Al Hofeld], said Dixon “was always a gentleman.”
“That level of civility really needs a resurrection in our politics today,” she said, reached by phone Sunday night.
* Governor Pat Quinn…
“Alan Dixon had a patriot’s determination to do what was best for his state and nation.
“Alan Dixon served with distinction in both houses of the Illinois General Assembly, two statewide elected offices, and as our United States Senator.
“He was a statesman, but he was also a warm and friendly soul who never met a stranger.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Senator Dixon’s family, friends and people whose lives he touched. He will be missed.”
* House Speaker Michael J. Madigan…
“Alan Dixon was one of a kind. A great leader and representative who always put the public’s interests first.
“He was a great friend. Shirley and I offer our sympathies to his family and our prayers they be given the strength to endure these sad times.”
* US Sen. Dick Durbin…
“From his days as a Police Magistrate in Belleville to his leadership position in the United States Senate, Alan Dixon was known for his honesty, his hard work and his commitment to the state he loved. Alan was the first statewide Democrat to voluntarily make a full disclosure of his net worth. Alan started the first bipartisan Illinois Congressional lunches, a tradition which continues to this day. His friendships reached across the aisle and across our state. I lost a pal today and Illinois lost a man who brought honor to public service.”
* Secretary of State Jesse White…
“The state of Illinois lost a dedicated public servant today in Alan Dixon. Senator Dixon was a man of integrity who always voted his conscience and had a unique ability to build consensus through compromise.
“As former Illinois Secretary of State, Dixon moved the office forward in a way that focused on customer service.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and to his friends. I was privileged to work with him, and to call him my friend. Alan Dixon will be missed.”
* Even some Republicans issued statements. US Sen. Mark Kirk…
“Alan Dixon was a dedicated public servant who spent the majority of his life representing the people of Illinois. But for his leadership, Illinois would have lost Scott Air Force Base - the largest employer south of I-80. We owe Alan a debt of gratitude for all he did for our state.”
* Tim Schneider, Chairman of the Illinois Republican Party…
“We are saddened at the loss of Sen. Dixon. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, and we thank him for his service to our state.”