In the imagination of William Shakespeare, Mark Antony said of Julius Caesar, “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.”
I would not presume to be comparable to Shakespeare, Antony or Caesar, and I rather take issue with the Bard’s sentiment, but on this day, I come to praise Albert King Dixon II, not to bury him.
King Dixon, who died at age 83 on Monday night, was a king in his way. I heard that magnificent name shortly after I reached a sentient age. My father, who played for Clinton when Dixon played for Laurens, said he was the best football player he ever saw. My mother, who died on May 28, said “he was something,” as great and gentlemanly off the field as on. He was the greatest of the Laurens Tigers, both capital “T” and diminutive – all-state in everything and All-America in football – and just as impressive at the University of South Carolina and in leadership of men and boys, be they Marines in Vietnam or Boy Scouts. The first time I ever saw this demigod was when he patrolled the Johnson Field sideline, coaching the Quantico Marines against Cally Gault’s Presbyterian College Blue Hose.
Over the past few years, it was a pleasure to come to know him. For some reason, I sat at the same table with him and Augusta at a variety of gatherings, whether I joined them because I enjoyed their company, or vice-versa. He said he enjoyed my writing. I felt unworthy in his presence but enjoyed the compliment nonetheless. He was a man of sincerity.
King and J. Dallas Shirley, the onetime director of Southern Conference officials, were the two most bowlegged men I ever saw. When I was a boy, my high school coach said the best football players were both bowlegged and pigeon-toed, and when I was in junior high school, I tried to walk around with my feet turned in. I reckon it was something that had to come naturally.
Among his vast achievements – athletic, civic, military, political, administrative – King was for many years the analyst, teamed with Doug Holliday, on Laurens Raider broadcasts. He was a boisterous advocate of the Raiders but also sportsmanlike in his ardor. I also think he gave the best prayers I ever heard.
Many years ago, when Sandy Cruickshanks and I plied a similar trade in Clinton, both the Raiders and Red Devils were in the playoffs. Clinton ran the ball so much, and with crushing effect, that its games often ended far in advance of others. Sandy and I used to meet in the parking lot of The Clinton Chronicle and ride to the games, no matter whether they were a few miles away or in far Fort Mill or Camden. When we returned to the Chronicle, the Raiders and Westside were still in overtime. Laurens scored first but missed the extra point. The Rams then scored and only needed a conversion to win.
After the proper buildup, Holliday described the action: “There’s the snap, the hold ...”
King’s voice thundered through the crackling waves of sound: “MIIIIISSSS IIIIITTT!”
I said to Sandy, “We can barely pick up WLBG in Clinton, but they just heard King Dixon in Chicago.”
In spite of King’s urging, the kick was good.
Another time, a colleague of mine at The Greenville News, ignorant of King’s many other accomplishments, pulled off the road late one afternoon, somewhere in Georgia, and called the office.
“I think I’ve lost my mind,” he said.
“I just heard on the radio that the crazy man who broadcasts football games in Laurens got named athletic director at USC.”
King became a man he would get to know better.
He was 83. My mother fell just shy of 80. Both died of a cancer of devastatingly short duration. I can’t say I’ll miss King as much as my mama, but I’ll miss him when the crack in the air of autumn descends on K.C. Hanna Stadium and the Raiders take the field.