Calgary lost a good man this past week. His name was Art Dixon, and he made a difference.
Arthur J. (Art) Dixon began his life in Windleston, County Durham, England just over 87 years ago. He immigrated to Canada with his family as a young boy, and spent most of his early years growing up in Okotoks. After the war began he joined the RCAF and fought for his country. He was married during the war. When the war was over, Art returned to Alberta, started a couple of small businesses, and in 1950 entered the real estate field. He started his own real estate company which carries on business still today as Dixon Real Estate Services. As a businessman his word was his bond. He was an active member of the Calgary Real Estate Board and for his services to the Board he was awarded an Honorary Lifetime Membership.
It was Public Service for which Art is most well-known. Growing up in the depression, Art knew hard times. The Social Credit movement in Alberta began as a political force to ease the extreme want and destitution endemic throughout the Province during the early years of the depression. Art liked that part about Social Credit - the part that was supposed to help people. In 1952, with his war years behind him, and a business to sustain his family, he went into politics. He was elected that year as a Social Credit Member of the Alberta Legislature for Calgary, and served as an MLA for the next 23 years. In 1963, his natural fairness and obvious intelligence landed him in the Speaker's Chair of the Legislature, a post he held for 12 years. Art was not cut from the same cloth as many of his colleagues in Social Credit. He was tolerant and flexible. He would never attempt to impose his standards of morality on others. He represented the progressive side of the movement, and there weren't many of them during the reign of Premier E.C. Manning.
I knew Art Dixon and liked him very much. My most memorable encounter with Art was to have its beginnings in late 1964. As a very young lawyer, I was retained by members of the Calgary Italian Community to fight expected charges under the Criminal Code and Liquor Control Act we anticipated were to be laid against members of several Italian new-immigrant families. This situation arose as a result of a rather violent RCMP raid on the Brdgeland homes of families suspected of making wine at home - a long and honorable Italian tradition. These families were making wine, as it was part of their culture, and many of them did not know it was illegal to do so. I wrote a heartfelt letter to the RCMP asking for compassion for these families, and whether due to it or not, charges were not laid.
My clients and I decided to take the next step - to convince the straight-laced Social Credit Government of Premier Manning to amend the Liquor Control Act so that people could make wine at home for their families. In 1965 prior to the beginning of the spring session of the Legislature, we tried lobbying the Premier and a few of his Members. Those efforts were fruitless. For the next spring session in 1966, we gave the 3-member Liberal Opposition a brief of our position, and they introduced a Private Members Bill to amend the Act so as to allow home wine-making. The Government tabled the bill and it died on the Order paper. For the 1967 spring session of the Legislature we had acquired our secret weapon - the Honorable Art Dixon, Member of the Social Credit caucus. Art had gladly accepted the important task of trying to convince his colleagues in the Social Credit caucus that our cause was just - even if it did involve the Social Credit Government approving home brew. Due in large part to Art's efforts behind the scenes, the Manning Government amended the Liquor Control Act to allow people to make their own wine and beer for their home consumption - an Act that has stood the test of time and remains on the books to this day.
Art was defeated in 1975 with the election of the Lougheed Government. He returned to his business and his many volunteer activities. One of his pursuits was as the founder and President of the William Aberhart Historical Society.
Art was a life-long supporter of the Salvation Army, from which he received its highest civilian honour, an International Distinguished Service Award. He was a Member of the Order of Canada for his contributions to the Province. He also received an Alberta Achievement Award in recognition of his community service, including his efforts on behalf of the Salvation Army, as an active member of Kiwanis International, as a volunteer Citizenship Court Judge, and as a driving force behind the development of the Dream Haven Senior's residence. He left behind a loving family and countless friends and admirers.
Art Dixon was a good man.