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As Long as We Remember...

June 13, 2012

Former State Treasurer Richard N. Dixon R.I.P.

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Last Thursday, State Treasurer Nancy Kopp announced that former Maryland treasurer and member of the House of Delegates Richard N. Dixon, 74, had died from complications of a stroke.


Those active in Carroll County leadership in the 1970s through the 2000s, knew Mr. Dixon as a steadfast, consistent, faithful, and stalwart public servant. Indeed he set the gold standard for constituent service representing the best interests of the voters of Carroll County and Maryland.


Many are aware of the long list of accomplishments Carroll’s native son achieved in his lifetime. Treasure Kopp mentioned in her release that “Treasurer Dixon had an exemplary career in public service highlighted by many firsts, including Maryland’s first African-American Treasurer…”


In her statement, Treasurer Kopp said of Mr. Dixon: “I had the very good fortune to serve with Richard in the House of Delegates for 12 years and in particular together on the Appropriations Committee. Treasurer Dixon was a person who succeeded as a military officer during the Vietnam War, as a businessman and stockbroker, as a state legislator and as the state treasurer. He was committed and conscientious...”


My old friend and colleague, Treasurer Dixon, had been in poor health for some time. So, when my Carroll Eagle editor called me to tell me the news of his death, it was not unexpected, but it nevertheless made me quite sad, retrospective, and reflective.


I vividly recall that several years ago, just after lunch on March 5, 2010, when Treasurer Dixon’s son, Timothy A. Dixon, gave an author’s book talk at the 13th annual Random House Book Fair at Carroll Community College.


“I’ve written a book about my father, the first, and only, black state treasurer in the state of Maryland,” said Tim Dixon with shy pride.


Richard Dixon was born April 17, 1938, said Tim Dixon in a soft professorial voice as he began to discuss his book about his famous father.


“He went from raising chickens and hogs in his backyard to investing billions of dollars for the state of Maryland,” he noted as he placed his hand on a stack of freshly printed books.


“Maryland’s First Black State Treasurer” is the title of the book Tim wrote about his father, one that local historians had looked forward to for many years.


“Whatever he became is a result of his Carroll County education… The biography of my father tells about his life and times.


“He was born the fourth child of six in his family. When he was born the country was still moving through the depression era. He coped with hand-me-down schoolbooks in what was then a segregated public school system as he attended an all-black school from the time he was in the first grade in 1944 to the time he graduated from Robert Moton High School in 1956.


“He went on to college at a historically black college in Baltimore – Morgan State College.”


Tim Dixon went on to explain that after his father graduated from college in 1960, he served in the Army for “about eight years, which included service in Vietnam, in which he was awarded a Bronze Star.


Treasurer Dixon returned from the war in 1968 to begin a career in finance as the “first black person to work as a stock broker in the Baltimore office of Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith.”


He went on to serve on the appointed Carroll County school board from 1970 to 1978, Maryland state delegate from 1982 to 1996 and then Maryland state treasurer from 1996 until he retired in January 2002.


Over the years, I worked with Treasurer Dixon in many capacities, beginning as a landscape designer and property management consultant; years later he helped me with financial advice, as a constituent and as a fellow elected official – especially when it came to matters of public finance.


Shortly after I purchased a farm in the early 1980s, I recall asking then-Delegate Dixon to help me untangle a bewildering array of conflicting and complicated regulations from an alphabet soup of Maryland bureaucracies.


He went out of his way to help. Not only did he know the agencies and the conflicting regulations; he also knew farming and the many challenges I faced as a small businessperson. His help was invaluable.


I had the luxury of agreeing with Mr. Dixon on almost all the issues – straight across the board. However, I do recall once when we did disagree… I have long since forgotten the issue.


I will always recall that one of results of our disagreement was one of the many lessons Treasurer Dixon taught me in the 1970s.


He listened intently as if his every breath hinged upon my every word. He then told me that he would take my views into consideration, but that I was wrong.


Furthermore, he went on to say that once I studied the matter more, I would discover that his “views were in line with the Carroll County constituency” he served.


Decades later as an elected official, I recall seeking his advice frequently. On one particular issue, he told me that he agreed that the matter in question was not good for Westminster. However, in his view, “Kevin, there just isn’t a thing you or I are going to do about it.” He further advised that when the matter came up again, I was to take it as “a good opportunity to sit down and shut-up… I’m telling ya…,” he said with a smile and infectious laugh.


His advice was always timely, thoughtful and right on the money.


Mr. Dixon was always kind, respectful, considerate, and he always kept his beloved Carroll County first in his heart. He never forgot his deep roots in the community. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his wonderful family. God bless Mr. Dixon for his life and his service.


Rest In Peace, my friend.


. . . . .I’m just saying. . .


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