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Gentleman from Illinois

Gentleman from Illinois

Stories from Forty Years of Elective Public Service

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Alan J. Dixon


Hardcover (Other formats: E-book)
384 pages, 6 x 9, 20 illustrations


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About the Book

In 1993, Alan J. Dixon’s political career came to an end with a defeat—the first one in his forty-three years of elected service. Beginning his legislative career in 1950 as a Democrat in the Illinois House of Representatives, Dixon also served in the Illinois State Senate, worked as state treasurer and secretary of state, and concluded his political career as a U.S. senator. The Gentleman from Illinois is an insider’s account of Illinois politics in the second half of the twentieth century, providing readers with fascinating stories about the people he encountered and events he participated in and witnessed during his four decades of service.
With a degree of candor often unheard of in political memoirs, The Gentleman from Illinois reveals Dixon’s abilities as a storyteller. At times chatty and self-effacing, Dixon pulls no punches when it comes to detailing the personalities of major political figures—such as Mayor Richard J. Daley, Adlai Stevenson, Paul Simon, and presidents of the United States. Indeed, he uses this same honest approach when examining himself, fully describing the setbacks and embarrassing moments that peppered his own life.
As a moderate Democrat who regularly crossed party lines in his voting and his views, Dixon also shares his thoughts on the proper way to run a government, the difficulties of passing legislation, the balancing act required to be a statewide official, and other valuable observations on local, state, and national politics. Full of behind-the-scenes insights presented in 121 short vignettes, The Gentleman from Illinois entertains as much as it informs, making it a necessary book for everyone interested in Illinois politics.


Alan J. Dixon is an Illinois lawyer and politician from Belleville who served in the Illinois House of Representatives, Illinois State Senate, and the U.S. Senate. He has also held the Illinois state offices of treasurer and secretary of state and was a partner in the Bryan Cave law firm in St. Louis until 2012, at which time he became a senior counsel.


“Alan Dixon served more than forty years in elected office, and never wavered from his characteristic civility and kindness. His career is proof that a strong leader can treat even his greatest adversaries with the greatest respect.”—Richard M. Daley, former mayor of Chicago

“[In this book], readers will discover that Dixon has not written a book to glamorize his accomplishments. Instead, he proceeds in his own words to detail insights into the life of a person who came from a Norman Rockwell–like town and advanced, step by step, to his country’s political heights. . . .[H]e resurrects people, places, incidents, and things that affected his being. He is sometimes self-effacing, sometimes poignant, and sometimes humorous. There’s also a healthy number of behind-the-scenes glimpses into the inner workings of politics.  In the end, the book is a revelation of the essence of Dixon, or, as he was known for years, the gentleman from Illinois.”—From the foreword by Taylor Pensoneau

“Alan Dixon mastered the political process, and he knew how to make it work to get things done for Illinois and for our nation. During his time in the United States Senate, he fought passionately and effectively for his beliefs, and was an indispensable member of the Armed Services Committee. I relied heavily on Alan as a trusted friend and advisor, and he was a great help to me in managing the defense bill on the Senate floor and guiding it through the conference with the House year after year. As chairman of the Readiness Subcommittee, Alan kept the morale of the military and their families at the forefront, and was an effective leader in ensuring a strong national defense. Like Alan, The Gentleman from Illinois is entertaining, enlightening, and informative, and I highly recommend it.”—Sam Nunn, former U.S. senator from Georgia

“Here’s the good one—the book we waited 20 years for. The Gentleman from Illinois chronicles Alan Dixon’s four decades in Illinois and Washington politics, and gives us a ring side seat to the passion, intrigue, and excitement that seeking and holding public office in a state like Illinois can command. One of the state’s most revered public servants has told it all without fear or favor and we are right there with him.”—Governor James R. Thompson