Richard N. Dixon

Richard N. Dixon (Photo by Monica Lopossay / December 18, 2001)

Richard N. Dixon, a conservative Democrat who served as Maryland's state treasurer for six years, died Thursday after suffering a stroke Tuesday, Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp announced. He was 74.

Mr. Dixon was the first African-American to win election by the General Assembly to the powerful post of state treasurer, which gave him a seat on the Board of Public Works and led to his election as chairman of the state pension system.

Before being chosen as treasurer in 1996, Dixon served 14 years in the House of Delegates — the last Democratic legislator to be elected from conservative Carroll County.

Mr. Dixon served as treasurer until 2002, when he resigned because of poor health amid controversy over his leadership of the pension system. His authoritarian style brought criticism from some of his fellow trustees.

A former stockbroker, Mr. Dixon was a persistent advocate of allocating a high percentage of the state's pension money in the stock market. For several years, the strategy paid off, but the fund's performance plunged during the high-tech bust of 2000.

Mrs. Kopp, who succeeded Mr. Dixon, released a statement noting that she served 12 years with him in the House, much of that time 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," Mrs. Kopp said. "He was committed and conscientious. He was clear and confident in his convictions and brought great intelligence and common sense to public service. My condolences go to his wife and family."

According to the treasurer's office, funeral arrangements were incomplete.

michael.dresser@baltsun.com