Frank M. Dixon

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Frank M. Dixon
40th Governor of Alabama
In office
1939–1943
Preceded by Bibb Graves
Succeeded by Chauncey Sparks
Personal details
Born (1892-07-25)July 25, 1892
Oakland, California
Died October 11, 1965(1965-10-11) (aged 73)
Birmingham, Alabama
Resting place Oak Hill Cemetery
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Juliet Perry
Occupation Lawyer
Religion Baptist

Frank Murray Dixon (July 25, 1892 – October 11, 1965) was an American Democratic politician. He served as the 40th Governor of Alabama from 1939 to 1943 and is most known for reorganizing the state government and reforming the way property taxes were assessed.

Early life[edit]

Dixon was born in Oakland, California to Reverend Frank Dixon and Laura Dixon. Dixon spent the majority of his youth in Virginia and attended public schools in both Virginia and Washington, DC. He graduated from Phillips Exeter Preparatory School (Phillips Exeter Academy) and then went on to graduate from Columbia University. In 1916 he obtained his law degree from the University of Virginia. He began his law career in Birmingham, Alabama in the law firm of Captain Francis S. White. Soon after he married Juliet Perry, with whom he had a son and a daughter.

His law practice was interrupted by World War I. Dixon enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Corps as a volunteer. As a second lieutenant, Dixon was assigned to the French escadrille as an aerial observer and machine gunner. In July 1918 he was wounded when his plane was shot down over Soissons, France, which in turn required his leg to be amputated. Dixon was awarded the Croix de Guerre with Palm by the French government; the French government also named him chevalier of the French Legion of Honor and promoted him to major.

When he returned to Birmingham, he founded his own law partnership, Bowers and Dixon, and became a successful corporate lawyer. At that point he became a commander of the American Legion and was active in veterans’ causes. In 1934 Dixon made his first attempt at the governorship of Alabama, but lost the democratic primary to Bibb Graves. However, in 1938 he easily defeated his opponent and succeeded Graves as the Governor of Alabama.

Governor of Alabama[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Bibb Graves
Governor of Alabama
1939—1943
Succeeded by
Chauncey Sparks

Before his inauguration Dixon spent an extensive amount of time preparing for his term. He met with Bibb Graves, public administration experts and Franklin Roosevelt to get advice and expertise on his plans for changing Alabama’s government. As governor, Dixon strove to streamline the state government. He eliminated twenty-seven government agencies in the state by consolidating duties within the departments. The agencies that originally were under the leadership of committees were placed under the authority of one individual who reported directly to the governor. He, therefore, also centralized power in the office of the governor. He terminated the employment of every state employee added to the payroll after the date of his inauguration and ordered every employee that did not have specific duties to be terminated as well. He pushed through a teachers’ retirement system and a teacher tenure law. He also established a state civil service system that required the hiring of state employees to be based on a merit system.

Dixon spent a great amount of time reforming the property tax assessment method in the state. Dixon believed that the property tax review boards that were assigned by the county deliberately under-assessed property taxes. This, in turn, led to inadequately supported school districts and municipal services. He pushed through his reform bill that required local assessment boards be replaced by a three-person board, which would be appointed by the governor.

As World War II began at the end of his term, Dixon’s accomplishments only increased. He oversaw a wartime reorganization of the docks in Mobile, Alabama that resulted in a four-hundred percent increase in barge traffic. Alabama’s economy flourished with the ship building and repairing industry brought about by the war.

Post gubernatorial years[edit]

After Dixon left office in 1943, he returned to his corporate law practice and began a private firm called Bowers, Dixon, Dunn and McDowell in Birmingham. He was a lobbyist for conservative causes in the state legislature. He spent much of his time lobbying against the right-to-work law. In 1948, former governor Dixon was temporary chairman and keynote speaker at the Birmingham convention of the States’ Rights Democratic Party that nominated Strom Thurmond and Fielding Wright as their presidential ticket.

Dixon died in Birmingham on October 11, 1965.

External links[edit]

  • Frank Murray Dixon at Find a Grave
  • Feldman, Glenn A. "Frank M. Dixon, 1939-1943." Alabama Governors: A Political History of the State. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. 2001. (p. 185-89).
  • Barnard, William D. Dixiecrats and Democrats: Alabama Politics, 1942-1950. Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press. 1974.