One day after his death, Richard Dixon, 74, was the subject of tributes and accolades sweeping across all of Carroll County — where he was born and raised, built a family and served his community as a school board member, state delegate and Maryland treasurer.
"He was an outstanding gentleman, and he did a wonderful job serving on the board of education, in the House of Delegates and as the state treasurer, and he did a wonderful job for Carroll County," said Jean Lewis, president of the Carroll County chapter of the NAACP.
"He was a wonderful individual, and he will be truly missed," she said.
Dixon died Thursday, June 7, following a stroke earlier in the week.
Born April 17, 1938, he had served as state treasurer — the first black man to hold that position — from January 1996 to February 2002, when he resigned for health reasons.
Prior to that, he served in the House of Delegates, representing Carroll County from 1983 to 1996, and before that was on the Board of Education from 1970 to 1978, serving as president from 1975 to 1977.
Those titles and positions were the means through which he served his county and his state. But reflecting on his life, many who knew him were speaking Friday more about the man — and how his legacy of service was rooted firmly in family and hometown values.
"He was always thinking about Carroll County and how he could help us," said Julia Gouge, of Hampstead, who was a member of the Board of County Commissioners for a portion of the time Dixon was in Annapolis.
"I would ... meet with him from time to time for lunch or breakfast to discuss what the state could do to help us," she said on Friday. "I never felt bashful about picking up the phone and calling him. A lot of times he'd say, 'Why don't we meet in Westminster?'
"It's little things like that that you remember," she said. "Richard was always really kind, and I think that stands out as much as anything in my mind."
Dixon was a Democrat, one of the few in recent — or even distant — memory from staunchly Republican Carroll County to be elected to a state office, but those who worked with him say party didn't matter as much as principle and purpose.
"We were on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but he was a very conservative, conscientious and caring legislator," said State Sen. Joe Getty (R-Dist. 5) of Manchester.
Getty got to see Dixon in action when the Manchester Republican was elected to the House of Delegates in 1994.
"For a little bit over a year I sat beside him on the house floor," Getty said. "Dixon didn't necessarily align with either side, politically. He voted his conscience. He was a very independent, strong political leader. He was a great strategist in knowing how to move something along in the legislative process."
"I considered him my mentor," Getty said, "and I could not have had a better mentor than Richard Dixon."
Dixon was a member of the House Appropriations Committee for much of his time as a delegate, and for a period chaired its capital budget subcommittee, and served on its education and economic development subcommittee and its oversight committee on pensions.
He's credited with sponsoring many bills aiding Carroll County projects, including a emergency room and expansion at Carroll Hospital Center; a new YMCA building; and several facilities at then-Western Maryland College (now McDaniel), including Hoover Library.
"Being a Democrat was one thing, but it didn't stop him from working with whomever he needed to work with to get something accomplished," Gouge said. "I'd often ask him for ideas as to what to do and who to talk to to get certain things accomplished, because he could always work both sides of the aisle."
"According to what I have read, he brought more money back to Carroll County as a member of the House of Delegates than anyone else has ever done," said Jean Lewis.
Getty recalled that as a member of the Maryland Board of Public Works — one of the roles the state treasurer fulfills — Dixon was one equal footing with the two other members of the board, then-Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Then-Gov. Parris Glendening.