Margaret Richardson Dixon
|Died||June 21, 1970 (aged 62)|
Baton Rouge, Louisiana
|Occupation||Managing editor of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate; crusading journalist; political activist|
J. Muncia Dixon (m. 1928)
|Parent(s)||Roger W. and Josephine Pettit Richardson|
Louisiana's most influential woman journalist of the 20th century
Margaret Richardson Dixon, usually known as Maggie Dixon (February 27, 1908 – June 21, 1970), was perhaps the most influential woman journalist of 20th-century Louisiana. She was the managing editor of the state's capital city newspaper, the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, from 1949 until her death some two decades later.
She was also an active Democrat who championed prison reform, assistance to the mentally ill, and organized labor. The Margaret Dixon Correctional Institution in East Feliciana Parish is named in her honor. She once addressed a Louisiana AFL-CIO convention at the invitation of its president Victor V. Bussie of Baton Rouge.
Margaret Richardson was born in New Orleans to Roger W. Richardson and his wife, the former Josephine Pettit. She attended local schools, which were segregated. In 1928, she obtained her bachelor's degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. That same year, she married J. Muncia Dixon.
Dixon began her journalism career in 1928 as a reporter for the now defunct Baton Rouge State-Times, an afternoon daily. In 1931, she moved to the morning New Orleans Times-Picayune, as women's editor and general assignment reporter, a position that she held until 1937. She worked for a year during the Great Depression as the part-time public relations assistant for the Louisiana State Library and as the pivotal Baton Rouge correspondent for the former New Orleans Item and the wire service United Press International.
In 1938, Dixon became city editor of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate. In 1942 she was promoted to assistant managing editor, serving for seven years. In 1949, she was promoted to her final position as managing editor, where she led the paper. (In 1967, Kenneth L. Dixon (no relation) became editor of the editorial page.)
In 1955, Dixon headed the Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press Association. She was close to Governor Earl Kemp Long and often advised him on press and political strategy, according to Long's former lieutenant governor, William J. "Bill" Dodd. In 1951 Governor Long had appointed her to the LSU Board of Supervisors, where she served to 1960.
In 1956 and 1964, Margaret Dixon was a delegate to the Democratic National Convention. The former met in Chicago to renominate former Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson as the presidential candidate, with U.S. Senator Estes Kefauver of Tennessee as his running-mate. In 1964, the convention met in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to nominate U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota for the presidency and vice presidency, respectively. Humphrey had Baton Rouge ties, having been a graduate student at Dixon's alma mater LSU. The Mississippi Freedom Party sought to gain seats for its delegation at the convention, elected when African Americans were still closed out of the state Democratic Party, composed mostly of whites. It was near the peak of the civil rights movement in the South, and that year Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dixon served as president of the Capitol Correspondents Association in Baton Rouge. In 1965, she was secretary to the Mississippi River Parkway Commission.
Honors and legacy
In 1966, Dixon was elected to membership in the American Society of Newspaper Editors. She won the "Headliner Award" from Theta Sigma Phi, the professional journalism society, and the "Women of Achievement Award" from the Federation of Press Women. Shortly before her death, she was initiated into the Southeastern Louisiana chapter of Sigma Delta Chi, the professional journalism fraternity. She also received the "First Lady of the Year Award" from Beta Sigma Phi.
Dixon is further remembered for her work in prison reform. She advocated decentralization of the massive Angola prison. The Margaret Dixon Correctional Institute, which opened on April 1, 1976, in Jackson in East Feliciana Parish, was named for her. It was halfway between Baton Rouge and the Mississippi state line. The prison grounds had once been part of the East Louisiana State (Mental) Hospital and were revamped to accommodate the new facility. This was part of the state's attempt to decentralize inmates from the mammoth Louisiana State Penitentiary in Angola in West Feliciana Parish.
In his memoirs entitled Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics, Bill Dodd described Dixon as "the only reporter I knew who had Earl's confidence and could influence him to embrace any kind of reform program. She was wholly responsible for Earl's changing our state prison system from a brutal and neglected stepchild to a fairly well-operated program. . . . "
- Mark T. Carleton (1971). "Politics and Punishment: The History of the Louisiana State Penal System". Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Louisiana State University Press. pp. 148–152. ISBN 0-8071-0940-1. Retrieved July 22, 2015.
- William J. "Bill" Dodd, Peapatch Politics: The Earl Long Era in Louisiana Politics Baton Rouge: Claitor's Publishers, 1991, p. 27
- "Margaret Dixon", A Dictionary of Louisiana Biography, Vol. 1 (1988), pp. 248–249
- Dixon obituary, The New York Times, June 23, 1970
- Dixon obituary, Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, June 22, 1970