BELLEVILLE – Former U.S. Sen. Alan Dixon was laid to rest Monday after being eulogized by his son and former colleagues as a devoted public servant savvy about brokering deals and unwilling to compromise his principles, even if it maybe cost him his seat.
Dixon died July 6 at age 86, a day before his birthday. More than a week later, hundreds of mourners gathered for Dixon's services at Lindenwood University's Belleville campus, including Democratic U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, former Republican Illinois Gov. Jim Thompson and Dixon's former chief of staff Gene Callahan.
As a Democrat, Dixon's political career spanned more than 40 years. He was in the U.S. Senate from 1981 to 1993, serving as the third-ranking Democrat, whom Durbin said earned bipartisan respect. Dixon also chaired a subcommittee of the Armed Services Committee.
But Durbin suggested that perhaps the way Dixon left office said the most about him, the Belleville News-Democrat reported. In early 1992, while in a tight race with Carol Moseley Braun in the run-up to the Democratic primary election, Dixon rejected his political consultant's insistence that he run negative attack ads against Braun, Durbin recalled during the funeral where many wore Dixon campaign buttons.
Dixon refused to play dirty politics, Durbin said, opting to lose instead of compromising his principles.
"'If people of Illinois dump me, I'll pick myself up, dust myself off and say thanks for the memories.'" Durbin, standing near Dixon's flag-draped casket, recalled Dixon as saying.
Dixon lost to Braun and never returned to politics again, eventually returning to a law career and publishing his autobiography, "The Gentleman from Illinois: Stories from Forty Years of Elective Public Service."
A day after his 1992 election loss, Dixon's son Jeff Dixon tearfully told mourners, his dad told him there was no reason to dwell on or complain about it, firm in that tomorrow was another day.
Yet while in office, Callahan said, Dixon never forgot for whom he worked — and made sure his staffers also knew: "He said we worked for the people of Illinois, just like he did."
Away from the job, eulogists remembered, Dixon enjoyed having a cold Budweiser with friends at drinking spots he called "saloons" or "watering holes," along with watching St. Louis Cardinals baseball.
A private burial for family and close friends followed at Lakeview Memorial Gardens in Fairview Heights.