BELLEVILLE — Former United States Senator Alan J. Dixon died Sunday, July 6, at his home in Fairview Heights. It was the day before his 87th birthday.
Dixon, a Democrat from southern Illinois, had a distinguished career in public service spanning more than 40 years. Over the course of his political career, Dixon served both in the Illinois House of Representatives and State Senate, and as Illinois Treasurer and Secretary of State. He represented Illinois in the United States Senate for two terms.
"My father cared deeply about people and was committed to public service for more than four decades," said Dixon's son, Jeff Dixon. "He was known and respected for his ability to work together with people of varied ideologies and political affiliations. He believed in the spirit of cooperation and compromise."
Dixon, born in Belleville on July 7, 1927, to William and Elsa Dixon, grew up and attended public schools in southern Illinois. Dixon served in the U.S. Navy Air Corps in World War II before earning a bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his juris doctorate from Washington University in St. Louis in 1949. That same year, he was admitted to the bar in Illinois and began practicing law in Belleville.
Dixon began his career in public service in 1948 as police magistrate in Belleville. In 1950, he was elected to his first term in the Illinois House of Representatives, where he served until he was elected to the Illinois State Senate in 1962. In the Illinois Senate, Dixon served as minority whip from 1964 through 1971. His political career in Illinois continued with successful runs for statewide offices, winning election as Illinois treasurer in 1970 and Secretary of State in 1976.
In 1980, Dixon won election to the first of two terms in the U.S. Senate. He was re-elected in 1986. In the Senate, he served as Chief Deputy Whip, the No. 3 leadership position. He was also a member of the Committee on Armed Services, Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Committee on Small Business and a number of subcommittees. After leaving the Senate in 1993, Dixon returned to practicing law with the firm of Bryan Cave in St. Louis. He also continued to demonstrate his commitment to public service by serving as the chairman of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission from 1994 to 1995. In 2013, he published his autobiography, “The Gentleman from Illinois: Stories from Forty Years of Elective Public Service.”
Dixon is survived by his wife, Jody, and their three children — Stephanie, Jeffrey and Elizabeth. He also had eight grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements at Lindenwood University in Belleville are not yet complete.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart (D-Illinois) released the following statement after Dixon's death:
"Senator Alan Dixon was one of the finest public servants our country has known. He walked the halls of power in Springfield and Washington, D.C., but he never forgot his Southern Illinois roots and the values he learned in his beloved Belleville. He served the public well while standing up for his constituents at all costs, even when he had to buck his party and its leadership. He was a true gentleman. His sense of civility is a commodity that was sorely needed during his time in government and is in even greater demand today. Senator Dixon could look back on an accomplished life with the blessings of a wonderful family. He was unique in having the singular distinction of being elected to serve in all three branches of government: judicial, executive and legislative. The title of his recently published book, “The Gentleman from Illinois,” truly describes him. He was a mentor to generations of Southern Illinoisans, lawyers and public servants. Annette and I are proud to have counted him as a friend. Today Annette and I extend our sympathy to wife, Jody; son, Jeffrey; daughter Stephanie and Elizabeth, and the entire Dixon family."