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Illinois Mourns Former Sen. Alan Dixon (Updated)

Updated 7:45 p.m. | Former Illinois Sen. Alan J. Dixon died Sunday at his home in Fairview Heights, his family said.  

The current senior senator from his home state, Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, announced the death in a statement.  

“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,” Durbin said. “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.”  

Republican Sen. Mark S. Kirk also highlighted Dixon’s record Sunday.  

“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,” Kirk said.  

Dixon was a two-term senator who was defeated in a March 17, 1992 Democratic primary for re-nomination by Carol Moseley Braun, a stunning upset in part of what CQ’s Bob Benenson called at the time a “St. Patrick’s Day massacre.”

“Dixon’s loss to Cook County Recorder of Deeds Carol Moseley Braun was a shocker. An old-fashioned back-slapping politician, Dixon had been a record vote getter over a 42-year career in local and statewide offices.

“This year, however, Dixon faced a two-pronged assault from Braun, a seasoned former state legislator with a strong political base in Chicago, and Al Hofeld, a wealthy Chicago lawyer.

“Braun — whose primary win made her the first black woman to receive a major-party Senate nomination — accused middle-of-the-roader Dixon of being too conservative for the Democratic Party. Dixon’s vote last October to confirm Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court infuriated female political activists and opened Dixon’s moderate voting record to closer scrutiny than in past intraparty contests.”

Dixon subsequently served as chairman for the 1994-95 military Base Realignment and Closure round.  

He wrote a memoir published last summer titled, “The Gentleman from Illinois: Stories from Forty Years of Elective Public Service.” CQ Roll Call’s Randolph Walerius reviewed the book , highlighting Dixon’s political career before and during his tenure in the Senate.

“As police magistrate in Belleville, for example, he discovered that he didn’t get paid unless he found the defendant guilty and assessed a fine. Actually, in Al’s telling, it was more of a financial quandary but he did at least point out the problem to the city council. And 13 years later, state legislator Al helped overhaul the judicial system.

“Being from Illinois, Al knew some operators. It’s a state, after all, where politicians really do have convictions. He also knew a disturbing number of people who killed themselves. But Al wouldn’t be Al if he was the type to succumb to melancholy. The arena of public service calls for a smile and congenital optimism. Armed with both, Al moves up the ladder and, in 1980, into the U.S. Senate.

“True to form, Al’s personality made him many friends in the Senate: Robert C. Byrd, Jennings Randolph, Christopher J. Dodd, George Mitchell, David Pryor, Charles Percy, Barry Goldwater, Trent Lott, John Danforth, Howard Baker, Dan Quayle, Daniel K. Inouye, Thomas Eagleton, Sam Nunn, Jesse Helms. Remarkable men, all of them, for one reason or another. Not Howard Metzenbaum, though. Al never cared much for Metz, as he says.”

His family noted Dixon died one day short of his 87th birthday. His son Jeff Dixon also issued a statement Sunday afternoon.  

“My father cared deeply about people and was committed to public service for more than four decades,” he said. “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.”