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Albert Dix Remembered

Albert Dix passed away today, December 1. A great supporter of the American Saddlebred Museum and the American Saddlebred breed, he was the father of longtime exhibitor Amy Dix Rock.

From the State Journal of Frankfort, Kentucky:
Journalists, bankers, politicians, educators and others today paid tribute to Al Dix as a sensitive and caring publisher who was dedicated to improving the community but kept his good works private.

Dix died at his home in Frankfort Tuesday morning of pancreatic cancer. He was 80. Services will be 2 p.m. Friday at South Frankfort Presbyterian Church with visitation at noon. Burial will follow at Frankfort Cemetery.

Richard Wilson, who retired from The (Louisville) Courier-Journal as its higher education reporter, got his first job in newspapers with The State Journal under Dix in 1963 and 1964.

"That helped me immensely during a nearly 40-year career in journalism," Wilson said. "Much of the reason for that was Al, who was unquestionably a reporter’s publisher. He was encouraging, respected quality work and openly shared his enthusiasm for its appearance in the newspaper. 

"While he may have held strong views on many subjects, he never permitted them to permeate The State Journal’s news columns and he respected those who believed otherwise. He also frequently took a personal interest in his employees and their well-being, both professionally and personally."

Bruce Brooks, retired executive vice president at Farmers Bank, said he always considered Dix "a dear friend. He was a little bit of a mentor to me.

"He was always willing to be a listening board for any situation. He was free with his advice and usually it was pretty sound and analytical."

Brooks said Dix was master of ceremonies at various functions, "and was really, really skilled at it. And he always had an open checkbook for a worthy cause. He would walk the walk and talk the talk."

Former City Commissioner Pat Layton said Dix encouraged her to start her real estate career.

"He had a lot of insight of what was going on in the community," Layton said. "It wasn’t because he was publisher of a newspaper but because he really loved his community.

"He was truly a leader. But a lot of people didn’t know about the many things he did for Frankfort because he was very private about it. He was a silent supporter. When there was a need, he was there and stepped right up front. He was a special guy."

State Sen. Julian Carroll, who was governor while Dix was publisher, said, "Al was a great community-minded leader. Although he was a Republican and I’m a Democrat, he was always very nice and cordial to me. I considered him to be one of our outstanding citizens."

Bob Roach, a retired school teacher and former city commissioner and county judge-executive, said Dix "was certainly interested in young people and education, and he believed in excellence. He was a prince of a fellow."

While teaching at Franklin County High School, Roach said he took groups of students to Washington, D.C., for 25 years to participate in a North American Invitational Model United Nations program, "and we could always count on him for a donation."

By sponsoring an annual State Journal All-Academic Banquet, Dix encouraged students to excel in the classroom, Roach said, "and he encouraged teachers by recognizing them as well."

Dix could also be a confidant, Roach said.

"You could go talk to him about an issue and you knew it would always be in confidence," Roach said. "And I knew his advice would be on target."

Attorney Bill Kirkland, a former Paul Sawyier Public Library president, said Dix was on a special gifts committee during fundraising for the new library and he came faithfully to every meeting.

"He had numerous contacts in the community and personally added immeasurably to the quality of the library through the gifts he solicited.

"He was a person of intellect, humor, good personality and good judgment. There was never a kinder soul and more generous person in the community."

Kirkland said their friendship spanned four decades.

"About 40 years ago, we played one-wall handball at the old YMCA on Bridge Street. I knew him first through his connection with South Frankfort Presbyterian Church, and through a few Republican endeavors. He certainly was a conservative after my own heart.

"He had extraordinary compassion and was interested in literacy, education, good government and ethical behavior."

Bruce Dungan, retired president of Farmers Capital Bank Corporation, said when Dix first came to Frankfort from Ohio, "I could tell he was here to be a friend of Frankfort. He was very thoughtful of people.

"He was here to help people, charities, government and his church. He worked so hard at charities. He would call me and say what I had given last year, and then say, ‘Don’t you think you ought to raise it a little this time?’

"If it hadn’t been for Al, the YMCA (on Broadway) may never have happened. He kept pushing everybody. He did whatever he could to improve Frankfort. He was one of the greatest guys in Frankfort that I know of. We’re going to miss him. I sure will."

Irvine Gershman, a retired downtown merchant, said Dix "coming here from Ohio was probably one of the best things to happen to Frankfort. He was always willing to do things for other people.

"He and his family have contributed so much to this community. When I would call on him for a little help (to various charities), he would just say, ‘How much do you need?’"

Gershman’s wife, Priscilla, said Dix "was a precious jewel. He will be sorely missed by everyone."

Russ McClure, a former vice president of Morehead State University, said he was "under the gun a lot of times" while serving as Finance Cabinet secretary to Carroll and assistant budget director to Bert Combs when they were governors.

"One thing I could always count on was Al being straight up and fair," McClure said. "He was always straightforward with his questions and always accurate in his reporting of my answers and the facts."

The Rev. John Hunt, retired pastor of South Frankfort Presbyterian Church, said he has fond memories of getting to cover one of the launches of the Gemini space program in the early 1960s for The State Journal because of Dix.

"He knew of my interest in science and he credentialed me," Hunt recalled.

When Hunt got to Cape Canaveral, bad weather caused the flight to be postponed, so he figured he would have to miss the experience because he would need to get back to Frankfort for Sunday church services.

But Dix encouraged him to stay in Florida, saying he would give the sermon on Sunday, Hunt said.

"He filled the pulpit for me and did an excellent job," Hunt said.   "He got rave reviews and supplied the pulpit on my absences after that. I was about ready to swap places with him."

Scottie Willard, who retired in September as press foreman after 44 years at The State Journal, remembers when Dix became publisher in 1962.

"He made a lot of improvements as far as press equipment when he took over," Willard said. "He treated all employees really well, just like they were his family. He was a really good person all around."

Ronnie Martin, retired composing foreman who worked at the newspaper 43 years, agrees.

"He was super to work for," Martin said. "He gave me all sorts of opportunities and challenges at the same time, but they all worked out. He was a great guy. He treated everybody fairly."

Ann Maenza, Dix’s daughter, now publisher of The State Journal, said her father "never cut corners. He always made sure things were done right. He was old school, fair and honest."

Amy Dix Rock, senior director of regulatory and scientific affairs at Cumberland Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Nashville, Tenn., said her father was "always thinking of others. We don’t know how many things he’s done for others because he didn’t talk about it.

"That’s the way he was. He was soft-spoken but when he did speak you listened."

Al Smith, who rose to prominence in the state as a weekly newspaper publisher and as the longtime host of KET’s "Comment on Kentucky," said Dix was a newspaper publisher of the old school, "but the opposite of the domineering egotistic bosses who bullied employees and squeezed the news to match their biases.

"‘Old school’ means that we always knew that with Al at The State Journal, it was like the grocery slogan of years ago, ‘the owner is in the store.’ He didn’t have to call a distant headquarters to know what to say or do.

"He had strong views, conservative Republican in a ‘company town’ (state government) of readers who are mostly Democratic, but he ran the paper on principles of fairness in the news columns and gave his editorial writers, who were mostly more liberal than he, free rein on the opinion page."

Smith noted how The State Journal under Dix supported a constitutional amendment that overhauled the state’s judicial system and created what is today the Supreme Court. Smith also noted the newspaper’s spotlight on corruption in government and how Dix shunned personal publicity.

"Once I wrote him a private note about something very generous he had done to help someone in trouble," Smith said.  "I heard nary a word in reply. But I didn’t expect it. I am sure he was embarrassed that I even knew."

Born Aug. 18, 1929, in Ravenna, Ohio, Albert E. Dix majored in political science and was a 1951 graduate of Denison University in Granville, Ohio.

He served in the U.S. Army Intelligence from 1953-1955.

A fourth-generation journalist, Dix first worked at The Times-Leader in Bellaire, Ohio, where his father was publisher. He moved to Frankfort in October 1962 to become publisher of The State Journal. He retired in 1996 as publisher and president of Wooster Republican Printing Co., the parent company of The State Journal, which now owns seven newspapers.

The Kentucky Book Fair was founded by The State Journal in 1981.

Dix also was a member of the board of directors of First Capital Bank of Kentucky, the Frankfort/Franklin County Industrial Development Authority and the local Kiwanis Club; and served two terms as chairman of the American Saddlebred Museum at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington.

He loved fishing and making fishing rods, electric trains and saddlebred horses.

Other survivors include his wife of 56 years, Edna Dix; a son, Troy Dix, publisher of the Ashland Times-Gazette in Ohio; and four grandchildren, Evan, Stewart and Melissa Dix and Lauren Maenza.

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