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“Generally speaking, my political career was built on goodwill and accommodation”

Monday, Jul 7, 2014

* Sun-Times

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.

* Post-Dispatch

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.

* Tribune

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.”

- Posted by Rich Miller        


17 Comments
  1. - Stones - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 9:57 am:

    A class act. Senator Dixon understood the art of the deal and the fact that you need relationships to get things done in politics. Condolences to his family.


  2. - A guy... - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:01 am:

    A Statesman by any measure. One of Illinois’ finest.


  3. - VanillaMan - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:02 am:

    Alan J. Dixon was a fully seasoned political veteran when he was elected to the US Senate in 1980. He had a long and distinguished career in Illinois government as our treasurer and secretary of state, and before that as a legislator from Bellville Illinois in the General Assembly. Senator Dixon was a WWII veteran and his rise and service as a public official from Illinois, reflects what we have come to see and admire about that generation of Americans. He believed in public service, he believed in bipartisan cooperation and he believed in serving our state well. As a US Senator, Alan did that and we remember him for his selfless work for Illinois.

    “Generally speaking, my political career was built on goodwill and accommodation”

    However, after a long and distinguished public career in Illinois, Senator Dixon discovered himself as a target within the 1992 Democratic Senate primary. David Axelrod had partnered with millionaire lawyer Al Hofeld, who then spent millions of Hofeld’s millions running 30 second television ads across Illinois targeting incumbent senator Dixon as a senator who favored special interests over Illinoisans. Axelrod’s Hofeld television ads carpeted our state and suggested that Dixon took thousands in PAC money from banks and military businesses in exchange for senate favors. For several months, Axelrod and Hofeld drove Dixon’s image down, threatening his renomination.

    This Axelrod/Hofeld onslaught against Dixon created an opportunity for Carol Mosely Braun, who decided that she could win the nomination as an unabashed Chicago liberal. As an African American woman, Braun was seen as a completely different type of candidate, apart from the typical middle-aged white males the representing Illinois. When Senator Dixon voted to confirm Clarence Thomas as a US Supreme Court justice, Braun was positioned within the primary to win Democratic voters who opposed that decision.

    After decades of being “Al the pal” to everyone he worked with both in elected offices and on Illinois streets, Alan Dixon discovered that being an excellent public official wasn’t enough in a world where sharp political elbows filled with millions could gin up a voter backlash and demonize him. Dixon would have easily been reelected that November for many more years as our non-ideological US Senator, but couldn’t survive Axelrod’s onslaught and Braun’s powerful partisan appeal.

    Dixon belongs to an age when bipartisanship, cooperation, public service and results were held in high esteem by both political parties and considered the highest qualifiers for elected office. His 1992 Democratic primary loss was a signal that political moderation was a disqualifier, even for a seasoned political veteran. Alan J. Dixon is today, admired for what we no longer see in our elected officials today.


  4. - wordslinger - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:07 am:

    Genuinely a nice guy. Here’s to a full life.


  5. - One of Al's Pals - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:14 am:

    He was one of the best political figures of last 100 years in Illinois. He had the gift of working out problems in the General Assembly. He would had made a great Governor. He was one of the last old timers in the system when it worked. It was great to see him one last time at Boone’s signing his book. He had same flare and longing for the political game.
    We miss you Al cause we always thought of you as not only a political leader but your friend and pal.


  6. - William j Kelly - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:14 am:

    My wife Laura and I both had the great honor of serving as interns in sen. Dixon’s office. He was an example of everything that is right about public service, he will be truly missed.


  7. - Sir Reel - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:21 am:

    Old school. I wish today’s Congress had more like him.


  8. - ... - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 10:55 am:

    VanillaMan, as he does often, summed it up very well.


  9. - Regnad Kcin - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 11:01 am:

    VanillaMan and Stones are right on point. Hard to find people like him still in the business in either party because they get knocked off in the primary for not being “pure”.


  10. - LisleMike - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 11:28 am:

    My father served as his press secretary and aide during his years in Treasurer’s office and Secretary of state. My father died the week before Alan went to Washington, but Alan made sure to come to the funeral none the less. He was a gentleman and always spotted me in whatever crowd he was adressing and no matter the size, he made his way over to me and wish me well. He was one of a kind!


  11. - Adam Smith - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 11:42 am:

    1984. Late on election night. A handful of Chuck Percy’s campaign staffers are drowning their sorrows at the bar at the Hyatt Regency after losing to Paul Simon. They see a solitary figure making his way across the lobby towards the exit. Upon recognizing him as Senator Dixon, one of the senior staffers who is acquainted with him waves. Dixon immediately recognizes him, walks over, graciously greets everyone, including the lowly intern (me), offers to buy a round and has a drink with us. He had privately, without any staff, just visited Sen. Percy to express his condolences on his loss. He then spent about 45 minutes with the staff telling stories and assuring everyone that their world had not just ended.

    Absolute class.


  12. - Interested Observer - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 12:38 pm:

    Nicest and most thoughtful Democrat I ever met in politics. The Democratic Party dumping him for Carol Mosely Braun opened a whole new era in nasty partisan politics in Illinois.


  13. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 12:50 pm:

    One of the best public servants in Illinois who truly enjoyed support from both sides of the aisle. He was a conservative Democrat who could pull Republican votes. Since his upset in the primary (when will Illinois wise up and approve run-off primaries?) has result in musical chairs in the US Senate since his departure.


  14. - Upon Further Review - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 12:51 pm:

    Sorry for the typos!


  15. - DuPage Dave - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 1:15 pm:

    It would be great if people stuck to the positive today and leave the partisanship for another day.

    Thanks to Al Dixon for his service and condolences to his family.


  16. - Tom Joad - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 1:27 pm:

    Senator Dixon was the greatest public speaker of the last 50 years. He could get a crowd wound up and hooting and hollering every time he gave a speech. People looked forward to hearing him speak. When it came to helping the Democratic ticket he was always willing to cut radio ads and make appearances for all the candidates on the ticket.
    Every office he held he improved.


  17. - CirularFiringSquad - Monday, Jul 7, 14 @ 1:36 pm:

    One can only wonder if Dixon would have pushed back against Richard J. and ran for Governor. He would have faced Big Jim. There would have been no Howlett or Sun Steel and probably no Thompson. Certainly no Edgar.
    Alan Dixon was a very good public official and a better pol. He voted his personal view on a mope,Clarence Thomas, and got caught in a three way primary. Hofeld spent the $$$ CMB smiled and then literally held on to defeat Rich Williamson.
    Then he did yeoman’s work on the base closing commission — a semi thankless job that needed to be done.
    Job Well Done. R.I.P. and a prayer of comfort for your family.


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