Family and friends gathered at Mount Airy Baptist Church on Feb. 2 to commemorate the life and legacy of Mark Dixon, an influential advisory neighborhood commissioner (ANC) whose only vice seemed to be the soft drink Mountain Dew. He died Jan. 23 at age 70 after a brief illness.

Attendees to the homegoing celebration could see how revered Dixon was by the presence of local and national notables including social activist Dick Gregory, D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6), D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier and several Advisory Neighborhood Commission members. Martin Luther King III,

Dixon’s good friend, sent a letter (that was read?) at the memorial service.
Gregory likened Dixon’s public service to a turtle. “He’s hard on the outside, soft on the inside and willing to stick his neck out.” The nationally-known social critic and activist added, “We just came to say thanks. I came in town to see my brother.”

Dixon died at Washington Hospital Center from complications linked to heart bypass surgery he had in December.

The D.C. native was deeply involved in the community, especially in matters dealing with employment, senior citizens and children. He played a pivotal role in orchestrating the building of Walker-Jones Elementary School, which is a state-of-the-art learning facility with an urban farm.

“Commissioner Dixon and I fought day in and day out to put jobs in the community and he never once wanted anything for himself,” said close friend and neighboring Ward 6 ANC commissioner Keith Silver.

During the funeral, those who knew Dixon shared testimonies about everything from his leadership to his obsession with meetings and Mountain Dew, his favorite soft drink. Wells, for example, praised Dixon for making him a better councilman. Dixon’s daughter, Markita, 27, reminisced about her father’s laid-back demeanor and the first time he took her for a driving lesson.

The Rev. Larry West, senior pastor of Mount Airy Baptist Church, who baptized Dixon seven years ago, also worked very closely with him to improve the area. “At Thanksgiving, we were always involving others to give turkeys to those who were needy,” West said. “Mark showed me a side of compassion particularly for this community that I think is overlooked by many.”

Dixon was remembered as a father, commissioner and community leader, but he also served as the vice chair of the D.C. Police First District’s Citizens Advisory Council, where he volunteered in outreach efforts in the victim services unit, according to First District Commander Daniel Hickson.

“Whenever Mark asked you for anything, it was never ever about Mark. It was always about his community and his neighborhood,” Hickson said. “He never asked for anything for personal gain or benefit.”

Although his health was declining and he regularly underwent dialysis, he still sought to serve without letting his condition interfere, friends said. “Even in the face of an untimely demise, he took it head on,” said Silver.

Many in attendance at his funeral, including West, said they want to remember him by continuing his work.

“I’m going to make certain that I lend an effort to following up to what Mark did because we cannot allow that to just pass away,” he said. “So therefore, I’m going to be looking for those individuals to step up and step beyond, first of all in the church and…in the community.”

“People use the term great, but it’s exploited and overused,” said Silver. “But this clearly is a man that you can consider being great.” 

Taryn Finley

Special to the AFRO