Dixon inducted into leadership hall of fame

Published 12:00 am Friday, January 30, 2015

Two of Charles Dixon’s grandchildren, Charles Roland and Patricia Vick Moody, accept a plaque Thursday night.

Two of Charles Dixon’s grandchildren, Charles Roland and Patricia Vick Moody, accept a plaque Thursday night.

The late Charles Dixon was inducted into the Andalusia Leadership Hall of Fame at Thursday night’s Chamber banquet.

Jim Krudop, who encouraged the establishment of the award, promised those in attendance he’d share stories they’d never head about the entrepreneur, and he did.

His biography follows:

“How many Hall of Fame inductees have only a seventh-grade education? Not that Charles Dixon – an avid reader who never stopped learning – didn’t want more education. His father, Napoleon Bonepart Dixon, took him out of school around 1905 to work in his sawmill. Later, as a teen, his father had Charles supervise laborers who were much older than him. He learned a lot from his father about land, trees, people and hard work His father, ‘Old Man Nap, as some called him, was a special man himself. He was one of the first to sow seeds and plant trees on bare or already harvested areas – a truly novel concept for the time.

“Mr. Charlie, as he was known around Andalusia, was born at Dixie in 1893 – the fourth child of a Civil War veteran and his wife, Mary Agnes McGowin – in a family home that is now part of Auburn University’s Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center

“Charles served in the Army during World War I and came back to the Andalusia area and got into the turpentine business with his father and his brother Jess. He helped build the first Andalusia Airport and ran Dixon Flying School with Jess and Solon Around 1939, Charles and Solon founded Dixon Lumber Co. in Andalusia, which eventually led to other affiliated mille in Evergreen Lockhart and Brantley.

“He was one of the founders and president of the Covington County Bank in 1947, and was involved in as many other business ventures as his boundless energy would allow, including a creamery and a radio station. “When he produced more lumber than he could sell locally, he took it to Mobile and supervised the building of more than 100 homes there during the World War II population bo \]om He also created a large real estate development near Valparaiso, Fla., and dug a deep water well to begin the area’s first water system.

“Over his lifetime, he oversaw the planning of more than 40 million trees. He was named Alabama’s Conservationist of the year in 1976.

“And in 1970, at the age of 76, when so many his age were golfing or settling into retirement villages, he saw a dream fulfilled when the first load of plywood rolled off the line at River Falls’ Dixon Plywood Mill.

“It was in 1930, however, that he made what he always told family members was his smartest decision. He married Thelma Chapman. Quiet, but highly intelligent, this 1926 Andalusia High School graduate had a gift for details and bookkeeping that aided the ‘big idea man’ who had never before seen a need for a filing cabinet. Thelma had very much wanted to go to college; her brother would graduate from the U.S. Military Academy. But there was no West Point for women then and no money for college, so she worked as a bank teller, one of the few jobs available for women.

“ ‘I know God made you for me, because what I lack you’ve got,’ Charles told Thelma later. He also joked that he really married her because marrying a bank employee might give him the inside track to a bigger bank loan.

“In the 30s and 40s they borrowed money to buy as much land as they could because prices were so low. Not everyone thought the purchases were smart, however. Thelma said courthouse employees would laugh at her as she came by to file a new deed.00

“ ‘Who would pay two dollars an acre for land?’ they’d ask. ‘Are you going to eat the dirt?’

“After World War II, Charles wasn’t able to borrow as much locally as he wanted, so he got an appointment with the president of Chase Manhattan Bank in New York City. ‘I understand you want to borrow some money to buy land. How much do you need?’ the bank president asked. Charles replied, ‘How much do you have?’

“The many land purchases proved more than wise.

“Charles and Thelma never evicted tenants on Depression-era land purchases and often let them farm free during those hard times. They ran turpentine operations in the Rome community and, during the most difficult part of the operations in the Rome community and, during the difficult part of the Depression, they ran a commissary in Rome to help feed the more than 100 families employed there

“Charles and Thelma had two daughters, both now deceased. Catherine Dixon Roland and Marjorie Dixon Vick. Grandchildren are Patricia Vick Moody, Claire Vick Leuenberger, Charles Roland and Amanda Vick. Both Catherine and Margie graduated from Andalusia High School and Auburn University. Mr. Charlie selected Margie’s husband, John Vick, an Auburn engineer, Naval officer and AHS graduate, to be general manager of Dixon Plywood.

“After the untimely death of their youngest daughter, Charles and Thelma set about memorializing her with a generous contribution to the Andalusia Public Library. The library remained a favorite philanthropic choice for Thelma. She volunteered as a board member and, after Charles’ death, she made possible the addition of the Charles Dixon Memorial Auditorium. In 1978, she was the very first Alabamian to receive the Grand Benefactor’s Award from the American Library Trustee Association.

“It is difficult to spend any time in Andalusia and the Covington County area without seeing the effects of the generosity of Charles and Thelma – from the library to the First United Methodist Church to the Alabama Forestry Association.

“The legacy of Charles and Thelma lives on as heirs and trusted employees continue to do business as Charles Dixon & Co. It lives on as Charles and Thelma Dixon are memorialized through generous scholarship to Auburn forestry students, and as thousands continue their education at the Auburn University Hotel and Dixon Conference Center, at the Charles Dixon Auditorium at Auburn’s Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center, at the Charles and Thelma Dixon Building at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn and at the Dixon Wing of the Huntingdon College Library. The Thelma Dixon Foundation continues this charitable legacy with many local contributions including generous annual support for 16 local volunteer fire departments.”