Saturday, February 04, 2012

Book Review: Maryland's First Black State Treasurer

This is the other book that I bought at the Carroll County Historical Society back in December. I quickly flipped through the book and learned that the first black State Treasurer in Maryland was actually from Carroll County. That was enough to convince me to buy the book.

Maryland's First Black State Treasurer was written by Timothy A. Dixon, the son of Richard N. Dixon, said treasurer. Richard Dixon was born in Westminster, Maryland and attended the Robert Moton school, one of Carroll County's schools for blacks. The black students from Carroll County were not integrated into the white schools until the late 1960's, which blows my mind. I was born in 1972, so this was only a few years before I was born. I think one's concept of history is framed by your present state, and I have always been in classes that were racially diverse.

After graduating from high school, Dixon went to Morgan State College (now University). After college, he was drafted and served time in Vietnam, just like many of our fathers. (My father was in college from 1967 - 1971 and got married right after he graduated, so he never got drafted)

After returning from military service, Dixon worked for a branch office of Merrill Lynch. It was soon thereafter that he was nominated to serve on the Carroll County Board of Education by Governor Marvin Mandel. In 1970 the newspaper read, "Westminster Negro Appointed to School Board." Reading this made me feel like I was in the middle of Mel Brooks movie Blazing Saddles.

In 1978, Richard Dixon ran for State Delegate from Carroll County. As the writer points out, Carroll County at this time is about 3% African-American and mostly Republican. It was quite an accomplishment for Dixon as he was elected several times.

In 1996, Richard Dixon was appointed State Treasurer, becoming the first black (or African-American as we must say today) to hold this position. During those years he successfully updated the accounting systems used by the state, conducted a thorough audit of the state's financial records, renegotiated contracts to hold state assets, which included moving money into local banks and some minority-owned banks. The return on investment of the state's pension fund also was very successful during this time.

Treasurer Dixon retired in 2002 due to declining health, but he left behind an impeccable legacy. His name graces the front of many buildings, including the Richard N. Dixon building at the Carroll Hospital Center in Carroll County, and several buildings at Morgan State University.

From an informational viewpoint, this book was very good. However, this book is terribly written. The pages are constructed of disconnected thoughts. There are numerous reassertions of the same point over and over again. There are incorrect references throughout the book, such as to Disneyworld (Disney World). The book mentions a trip to Los Vegas. Where the hell is that? Dixon also made a trip to Van Coover (Vancouver) and Albacurci (Albuquerque). Later is says that he went to Disneyworld in California (Disney World is in Florida) and Disneyland in Florida (Disneyland is in California). Sure, these are trivial matters, but if you write a book it is so easy to use spellchecker to correct the misspellings. And how difficult is it to have someone proofread what you have written?

If you are truly interested in reading about the life of Richard N. Dixon, you can certainly read this book. But if you just have mild curiosity, I would recommend not reading this book. As my wife can attest, it was very frustrating reading a book written about as poorly as something written by a 5th grader.

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