Biography of Controversial Writer Thomas Dixon Part 2

About the controversial writer Thomas Dixon, history and biography of the author of Birth of the Nation and other racist works.

FOOTNOTE PEOPLE IN U.S. HISTORY

THOMAS DIXON (1864-1946). Clergyman and writer.

After that, with the encouragement of his mother, who had taught him to read, he set aside time in which he could apply himself diligently to books. When he was 15, with money his father was able to borrow from the deacon of the Baptist Church, he entered Wake Forest College, which--like Ralph Waldo Emerson--prided itself on "plain living and high thinking." Having a fine foundation in mathematics, Latin, and Greek, and spending daily four hours in class and thirteen studying, he earned both a bachelor's and a master's degree in four years. At his graduation in 1883, he received the highest honors ever bestowed by the school and a scholarship to Johns Hopkins University.

Meanwhile, he had developed a great love for oratory. Debate delighted him, and speaking before a public group excited him. And he was eloquent without equal among his peers. Standing 6 ft. 3 1/2 in. tall, with an interesting face, a shock of black hair, and a strong, musical voice, he had the flair and ability to sway, arouse, convince, or mesmerize any audience.

Young Dixon now stunned his family by announcing that he did not intend to become a minister because he was an agnostic. Instead, he was going to New York to become the greatest Shakespearean actor of the age. Surprisingly, the inflexible Tom Dixon, Sr., helped finance this venture, positive it was a passing phase for his son. It might not have been, had Tom, Jr., made it as an actor, but he did not. It was a brutal blow, for failure of any kind he found intolerable.

Returning home, he entered law school in North Carolina, became intrigued with politics, and ran for the state legislature. Due to his skill as an orator, he beat his opponent soundly, and this before he was old enough to vote. Politics might have been his life work, but he was disenchanted quickly by the corruption, referring to politicians as "prostitutes of the masses." Seeking a fleeting respite from reality, he attended the Mardi Gras. While in New Orleans he met and fell in love with Harriet Bussey. Dr. Bussey objected to his daughter's suitor, so the couple eloped and were married Mar. 3, 1886. They had three children.

Once married, he practiced law successfully but briefly. His explanation for dropping his career was that he felt law trials were little short of criminal. The lawyer's power to influence a jury insulted his sense of justice. There followed a period of restlessness, until one day, while walking alone in an isolated area, he finally felt the call to preach.

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