Isaiah “Ike” Dixon Jr., 90, four-term veteran of the Maryland House of Delegates, community leader and political activist, died of heart failure at Stella Maris Hospice in Timonium on April 26.
In his four terms as a member of the House of Delegates, representing Baltimore, he was known for his efforts at ensuring racial equality and spearheaded the effort to make cross-burning a felony. He is also remembered him as the son of a musician whose melodies helped to create a hub for jazz in the city.
Baltimore-born and raised, Dixon attended public and parochial schools in the city. He graduated from Frederick Douglass High School in 1941 and enrolled at Howard University, where he played football. After college he served in the U.S. Army.
Dixon had an affinity for politics and was elected to the House of Delegates in 1966. While Dixon helped to push a lot of legislation in the House, his most noted bill was a provision that changed cross burning from a misdemeanor to a felony.
Maryland Delegate Melvin Stukes (D-44) said while he and Dixon did not serve in the House of Delegates at the same time, Dixon was a noted hard worker. He said Dixon’s cross-burning legislation has had significant impact on Maryland residents.
“I applaud him for pushing that legislation,” said Stukes. “There’s no missing the message of what burning a cross on a lawn means. It’s clear what that symbol meant and thankfully is doesn’t happen as frequently anymore.”
Tessa Hill-Aston, president of the Baltimore branch NAACP, recalled first meeting Dixon in Annapolis while she was working for the Hub Organization, which lobbied for minority-owned businesses in Baltimore.
“He was a delightful, friendly, jolly person,” said Aston. “It was a delight to get to know him. He always supported minority-owned businesses because his father owned a lot of businesses on Pennsylvania Avenue.”
Dixon’s family owned several businesses in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore, when it was a hub for Black owned businesses in the city. Black owned clubs, bars, clothing stores, fraternity houses and more lined the streets. Aston said, the Dixon family once owned both a bail bond and check cashing company on the block. She called it, “the good old days.”
He was elected a delegate to the 1976 Democratic National Convention, served in the board of directors of the National Aquarium, and was a member of the NAACP and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.
In 1934, Dixon’s father, Isaiah Dixon Sr. started a jazz club in Baltimore, The Comedy Club. The venue was a jazz hub in musicians and singers such as Billie Holiday, Sammy Davis Jr., Dinah Washington and Miles Davis. His father was also the first Black to own a chartered bus, which he used to transport his band to local radio station broadcasts. When his father died in 1953, Dixon and his brother took over the club until it closed in the 1960s.
Dixon is survived by his son, Isaiah Dixon III, a daughter Joyce Fuller-Wood, three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His wife of 58 years, Miriam, died in 2005.