By John L. Ross / Staff Writer
“He was one of the good ones.”
That’s what Karen Kelly, who works with U.S. Representative Hal Rogers and is a member of the UNITE board of directors, said about Charley Greene Dixon Jr. Monday.
Dixon, former Knox County attorney and former Barbourville city attorney, well known throughout the county and the region, died early Monday morning after an extended battle with colon cancer.
He was 49.
Known by many and respected by those who knew him, Dixon was seen around the city of Barbourville as well as Knox County — not just as an attorney, but an advocate for the youth, the community and the future.
Karen Kelly has known Dixon for nearly two decades.
“This was a courageous battle — and Charley didn’t want to give up,” said Kelly. “And that showed Charley’s personality — he never gave up.”
She said she had many good memories of Dixon, many of those created working side by side with Dixon with Operation UNITE. “He showed me the potential of that program,” she said.
She recalled a time when she stood with Dixon on a mountainside at a pond donated for the drug prevention program Hooked on Fishing, Not on Drugs.
“Whatever you have to do to get the message out to kids about drugs,” Kelly said Dixon told her. “We’re going to win.”
She said that Dixon was a man who wasn’t just talk — he would get right in there with ideas and effort to get any job done.
“I will really miss him from the bottom of my heart,” Kelly said.
She met Dixon before Operation UNITE came into existence in 2003 — in the late 1990s working with PRIDE.
“That’s when I came to know and love him,” Kelly said, adding that “he wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”
She said Dixon cared a great deal about Barbourville and Knox County.
“I will miss him a lot,” Kelly said, her words tinged with great sadness. “He was one of those guys — you just loved him. He was a good man who tried to make the community a better place.”
Last fall, Rogers presented Dixon with a Congressional Record award, and Kelly said he stood on the House floor and talked about Dixon.
“He was a fighter, and he fought right until the end — he’s getting his reward now,” Kelly said. “My life is better because I knew Charley.”
Claudia Greenwood, with the Knox County Attorney’s office, called Dixon “a pillar of the community.”
“He will be missed in so many areas of community life,” Greenwood said, adding he was involved with Operation UNITE, his church, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street, county and city tourism — and many others. “And he helped with programs in the high school for drug prevention as well as other prevention programs for kids.”
Greenwood said he would “be sorely missed by so many people.”
She said she retired from teaching school about 10 years ago — and soon after Dixon persuaded her to work for him part-time.
“It would have been 10 years in August,” she said. “But he wasn’t just my boss — he was my friend.”
Greenwood added that when it came to dealing with people, they were all the same.
“There was no distinction,” she said. “(No matter) their education, their economic (standing) — he was the same with everybody.”
And she said that was Dixon.
“That’s how he operated,” Greenwood said. “He had great ideas and was great at planning and organizing.”
She explained that if she needed to get 10 people to assist in a community project, she’d get a few responses if she was lucky — “he’d come back with all 10 helping,” she said.
“He gave his time and his talent to the community, and I think Patricia Steele said it best after he was sick and wasn’t in — it almost felt like the pulse of the city was gone from the town,” Greenwood said.
She’d become so accustomed to leaning on Dixon, she said at one point Monday she stopped and thought, “What’s the right thing to do here — oh, I’ll just ask Charley — and (now) that’s gone,” she said.
Former Barbourville mayor David Thompson said when he was a child, his family lived next door to Dixon’s grandparents, John and June Dixon — and John Dixon was the county attorney at the time.
“Now here it was, 40 years later, and I worked with Dixon in the city,” Thompson said. “I was very proud to work with Charley with the city and all the community events he was involved in.”
At press time, funeral arrangements were still incomplete but being handled by Hopper Funeral Home. He leaves behind many family and friends, including his wife, Marsha Smith Dixon.