2015 Greater Tacoma Peace Prize winner is local mainstay, bound for Norway

Tom Dixon, one of Tacoma’s leading voices for African American rights and justice over the past half century, will soon go to Scandinavia with a fresh U.S. passport in hand.

Recipients of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize are routinely honored with a trip to the home of the Nobel Peace Prize. And Dixon was named Tacoma’s 11th annual peace prize laureate earlier this year.

After being celebrated at a banquet in Tacoma on Oct. 22, the 84-year-old Dixon is now finalizing his travel plans to Oslo, Norway. There, on Dec. 10, he will join King Harald V and dozens of other dignitaries to observe the ceremonial awarding of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet.

Good thing Dixon had plenty of time to get a passport.

He hasn’t traveled abroad since he served 13 years in the Air Force as a young man, culminating in the early 1960s when he settled in Tacoma.

That’s when he began a career that included 34 years as executive director of the Tacoma Urban League. In that role, he worked for economic development, job training, fair housing and social services for the black community.

Dixon also helped form the Black Collective, a group of civic leaders that meets regularly to press for change on issues like the achievement gap among minorities in Tacoma schools.

One of Dixon’s signature moments came during the Mother’s Day Disturbance of 1969.

A confrontation between police and Hilltop residents after the arrest of a black woman led to the shooting of a policeman and the vandalism of stores on K Street (now Martin Luther King Way). Dixon and other black leaders convinced the crowd to back off, and an emotional but productive dialogue was launched between black leaders and Tacoma’s mostly white power structure.

“All these years, he has been 100 percent a man of peace for Tacoma,” said Janet Ruud, a board member and one of the founders of the Greater Tacoma Peace Prize.

“He is such a calm, soft-spoken yet compelling speaker and a rational person,” Ruud added. “He does not ever advocate for force or conflict. He has always advocated for peaceful solutions to whatever the problem may be.”

Dixon is the first African American recipient of the Tacoma peace prize, originally awarded in 2005. He described it as a “high honor.”

“I think I earned it over the years,” he said. “I know I did.”

Matt Misterek: 253-597-8472