Alan J. Dixon

Alan John Dixon (July 7, 1927 – July 6, 2014) was an American politician and member of the Democratic Party who served in the Illinois General Assembly from 1951 to 1971, as the Illinois Treasurer from 1971 to 1977, as the Illinois Secretary of State from 1977 to 1981 and as a U.S. Senator from 1981 until 1993.

Alan J. Dixon
Alan John Dixon.jpg
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
January 3, 1981 – January 3, 1993
Preceded byAdlai Stevenson III
Succeeded byCarol Moseley Braun
34th Secretary of State of Illinois
In office
January 10, 1977 – January 12, 1981
GovernorJames R. Thompson
Preceded byMichael Howlett
Succeeded byJim Edgar
65th Treasurer of Illinois
In office
January 11, 1971 – January 10, 1977
GovernorRichard B. Ogilvie
Dan Walker
Preceded byCharles W. Woodford
Succeeded byDonald R. Smith
Personal details
Alan John Dixon

(1927-07-07)July 7, 1927
Belleville, Illinois, U.S.
DiedJuly 6, 2014(2014-07-06) (aged 86)
Fairview Heights, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
EducationUniversity of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (BA)
Washington University (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Navy
Battles/warsWorld War II

Early lifeEdit

Born in Belleville, Illinois on July 7, 1927,[1] Dixon attended Illinois public schools and later earned his bachelor's degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and his J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis. While attending the University of Illinois, he joined the Delta Upsilon fraternity. During World War II, Dixon served in the United States Navy.

State political careerEdit

General AssemblyEdit

Dixon served as a member of the Illinois House of Representatives from 1951 to 1963 and as a member of the Illinois State Senate from 1963 to 1971, serving as Minority Whip for part of that time.

Karl Rove and the Dixon campaign incidentEdit

In the fall of 1970, Karl Rove, a future White House Deputy Chief of Staff in the George W. Bush Administration, used a false identity to enter the office of Dixon's campaign for Illinois Treasurer and stole 1000 sheets of paper with campaign letterhead. Rove then printed fake campaign rally fliers promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing", and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters, with the effect of disrupting Dixon's rally. Dixon eventually won the election. Rove's role would not become publicly known until August 1973. Rove told the Dallas Morning News in 1999, "It was a youthful prank at the age of 19 and I regret it."[2]

1976 electionsEdit

In 1976, Dixon was elected Illinois Secretary of State. The 1976 Illinois State election was turbulent for the Democratic Party. Outgoing Governor Dan Walker had lost the support of the Party and was defeated in the primary election. Dixon's election as Secretary of State left two years on his term as State Treasurer. To prevent Walker from appointing himself or anyone else to the position, Dixon proposed to incoming Republican Governor James R. Thompson that he would resign after Thompson was inaugurated if Thompson agreed to Dixon's choice for State Treasurer. Dixon's choice was Donald R. Smith, a Republican who was the ranking Civil Service employee in the State Treasurer's office and who had agreed not to run for re-election.

Dixon served as Secretary of State until 1981, when he took office as a United States senator from Illinois.[3]

United States SenateEdit

Dixon was generally considered a moderate and was less visible nationally than either of his Illinois colleagues, Charles Percy and Paul Simon, both of whom sought the presidency. In 1992, Dixon lost in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate to Carol Moseley Braun. This defeat shocked observers; at the time no Senator had been defeated in a primary in over a decade and Dixon had a long record of electoral success. His vote to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court contributed to his defeat.[4] Dixon was sharply criticized during the campaign by Braun for supporting Clarence Thomas' nomination despite allegations of Thomas sexually harassing Anita Hill.[5]

Braun, a black woman, had the complete support of black voters, and as a known reformist liberal got a large share of liberal voters, and also attracted many women voters in what was termed "The Year of the Woman".

Another factor was the third candidate in the race, multi-millionaire attorney Al Hofeld. Hofeld drew away some of the moderate and conservative Democrats who normally supported Dixon. He also spent a large amount of money running advertisements attacking Dixon, weakening his support.

The Chicago Tribune ran a piece in which Eric Zorn claimed that Dixon's voting to confirm Clarence Thomas in 1991 set off a chain of events that led to Barack Obama's election as president in 2008.[6]

Later life and deathEdit

Dixon chaired the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission in 1994 and 1995.

After his term in the Senate, Dixon resumed practicing law with the Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis and lived in Fairview Heights, Illinois, where he died on July 6, 2014, from natural causes just 1 day shy of his 87th birthday.[7]

His autobiography, The Gentleman from Illinois: Stories from Forty Years of Elective Public Service, was published in 2013 by Southern Illinois University Press.


Alan J. Dixon was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the State's highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 1994 in the area of Government.[8]

Electoral historyEdit

  • 1980 General Election - U.S. Senate
  • 1986 General Election - U.S. Senate
  • 1992 Democratic Primary - U.S. Senate


  1. ^ United States Congress. "DIXON, Alan John (id: D000366)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. Retrieved July 7, 2014.
  2. ^ Dan Balz (July 23, 1999). "Karl Rove: The Strategist". The Washington Post. Washington Post Company. p. C1.
  3. ^ 'Illinois Blue Book 1979-1980,' Alan J. Dixon-Secretary of State, pg. 24-25
  4. ^ Charles Babington and Dan Balz (2005-08-17). "Democrats Feel Heat From Left On Roberts". The Washington Post. Washington Post Company. p. A01. Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, said [...] 'History shows us that voters turned on Alan Dixon for his vote on Clarence Thomas and voters gave Arlen Specter the toughest reelection of his life.'
  5. ^ Martin, Douglas (7 July 2014). "Alan J. Dixon, 86, Is Dead; U.S. Senator Who Championed Illinois". The New York Times. Retrieved 10 October 2014.
  6. ^ How Senator Alan Dixon gave us President Barack Obama
  7. ^ Former U.S. Senator Alan Dixon Dies at Home
  8. ^ "Laureates by Year - The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved 2016-03-04.

External linksEdit

Political offices
Preceded by Treasurer of Illinois
Succeeded by
Preceded by Secretary of State of Illinois
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by U.S. Senator (Class 3) from Illinois
Served alongside: Charles H. Percy, Paul Simon
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Treasurer of Illinois
1970, 1974
Succeeded by
Preceded by Democratic nominee for Secretary of State of Illinois
1976, 1978
Preceded by
Adlai Stevenson III
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
(Class 3)

1980, 1986
Succeeded by
New office Senate Democratic Chief Deputy Whip
Succeeded by