Durbin Pays Tribute On Senate Floor To Friend & Former Senator From Illinois Alan Dixon
[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today paid tribute on the United States Senate Floor to the life and legacy of former U.S. Senator from Illinois Alan Dixon. Dixon, who was known affectionately by friends and colleagues as “Al the Pal,” served two terms in the Senate.
“I would like to take a moment to speak about an old friend,” Durbin said. “Sadly, Alan Dixon died Sunday morning in his sleep. So today, instead of celebrating my old friend’s birthday, I would like to take a moment to celebrate his remarkable spirit and his legacy. Alan Dixon represented Illinois. He represented ‘the little guy.’ He represented a style of politics that we could use more of these days. Alan Dixon believed in the marrow of his bones that people of goodwill could find common ground if they wanted to.”
Yesterday, the United States Senate unanimously approved a resolution introduced by Durbin and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) honoring Dixon. A copy of the resolution is available here.
Video of Durbin’s remarks is available here.
Audio of Durbin’s remarks will be available shortly here.
Durbin’s full remarks as prepared for delivery are available below.
Remarks of Senator Richard J. Durbin
In Appreciation of the Life and Legacy of Former Senator Alan Dixon
July 8, 2014
I would like to take a moment to speak about an old friend.
Last Thursday, former Senator Alan Dixon came home in good spirits from Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.
He and his son, Jeff, shared dinner, including a cold Budweiser.
Afterward, Jeff drove home, expecting to see his Dad again on Monday to celebrate Alan Dixon’s 87th birthday.
Sadly, Alan Dixon died Sunday morning in his sleep. His heart had been weakening for a couple of years and finally just gave out.
So today, instead of celebrating my old friend’s birthday, I would like to take a moment to celebrate his remarkable spirit and his legacy.
Alan Dixon represented Illinois.
He represented “the little guy.”
He represented a style of politics that we could use more of these days.
Alan Dixon believed in the marrow of his bones that people of goodwill could find common ground if they wanted to.
He knew how to make the process of democracy work, and work well.
In his memoir, which he published last year, he wrote: “Generally speaking, my political career was built on goodwill and accommodation.”
He was known by Senators on both sides of the aisle as “Al the Pal” – a nickname he was proud of.
Alan Dixon was a downstate guy. He grew up in Belleville, just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.
His dad owned and ran the Dixon Wine and Liquor Company in Belleville.
Alan served in World War II, in the US Navy Air Corps.
After the war, he earned a college degree from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign and a law degree from Washington University in St. Louis.
In 1948, at the age 21, a neighbor urged him to run for police magistrate in Belleville. He did, and he won.
Two years later, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives – becoming the youngest member ever elected to the Illinois General Assembly. His starting salary: $3,000 a year.
He went on to become one of the most successful vote-getters in Illinois history.
He won in 29 consecutive bids for public office, including those for state representative, state senator, secretary of state and state treasurer.
Among his accomplishments in Springfield:
He helped to replace the state’s corrupt justice of the peace-police magistrate system with the current court system.
He led an unpopular fight against loyalty oaths during the McCarthy era.
And he helped to create Illinois’ community college system.
In 1980, the people of Illinois chose Alan Dixon to represent them in the United States Senate.
In Congress, he teamed up with an old friend with whom he had served in the Illinois General Assembly – a man named Paul Simon.
Senator Dixon and then-Congressman Paul Simon started two traditions that continue to this day.
One is the monthly lunches for our state’s congressional delegation – Republics and Democrats, House members and Senators, sitting down together to share a meal and see if there are projects we can work on together for the good of our state.
The other enduring tradition Alan Dixon founded is the Illinois constituent coffee. Twice a month, any Illinoisans who is in Washington is welcome to come by, grab a donut and a cup of coffee, and tell her Senators what’s on her mind.
In his 12 years in this Senate, Alan Dixon spoke out for the little guy – often at the top of his voice, with his arms waving.
He fought for affordable housing and fair lending practices.
He denounced wasteful defense spending and created a procurement “czar” to oversee spending at the Pentagon.
He called for tougher oversight of the savings and loan industry and more vigorous prosecution of scam artists who defrauded S&L’s and left taxpayers holding the bag.
In 1992, Alan Dixon lost his bid for re-election to this Senate in a three-way primary. It was the political upset of the year.
Alan Dixon told a teary crowd of supporters that he had “loved every golden moment of” his time in politics.
His fellow Democratic Senators twice elected him unanimously to serve as chief deputy whip, but Alan Dixon was no partisan ideologue.
After his last election, he was praised by Senators from Ted Kennedy and George Mitchell to Bob Dole and Strom Thurmond.
In 1995, President Clinton appointed Alan Dixon to chair the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission.
It made sense on one level: As a Senator, Alan Dixon had written the section of the 1991 defense authorization bill that created the BRAC commission.
But here was a man who had spent his entire career making political friends -- now taking a job that was bound to undo some of those old friendships.
He accepted that assignment for the same reason he served in World War: to defend America to the best of his ability.
Last October, Alan Dixon published his memoirs with the appropriate title, “The Gentleman from Illinois.”
He returned to Washington for a book party at The Monocle, the famous restaurant about a stone’s throw from the Dirksen Senate Office Building, the scene of countless bipartisan dinners during an earlier and more bipartisan time.
Alan Dixon told the old friends gathered at The Monocle that evening: “What this country needs now is more friends on the Hill working together and talking together, and working for solutions that will serve the interest of the public.”
He is right about that. I hope that we will see a return of that spirit to this Congress. The country needs us to work together.
Before Alan Dixon left this Senate, then-Senator Paul Simon praised him with these words.
He said: “In generations to come, his children, his grandchildren and his great-grandchildren will look back and say with pride, ‘Alan Dixon was my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather, whatever the relationship will be.”
I have lost a pal.
Loretta and I wish to extend our condolences to Alan’s wife of 60 years, Jody – she was his rock – to Alan and Jody’s three children, Stephanie, Jeff and Elizabeth, and to their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Previous Article Next Article