The Lyman Ward Military Academy - Sentinel
December 1984



     The Dixon family migrated to South Alabama in the early 1800's from North Carolina. One of the ancestors, believed to be Jeremiah Dixon, helped survey the Mason Dixon Line. The Dixons were inventive and very industrious. With towering pines and oaks everywhere, they soon built a sawmill, thus laying the foundation that was to eventually become the giant forestry empire run by the Dixon brothers, Charles and Solon.

     Solon, born in 1902 to Napoleon Bonepart Dixon and his wife, Mary Agnes McGowin, was the youngest of six children. He grew up at the old home place on the banks of the Conecuh River and Blue Creek, near Andalusia. In his early years, Solon attended a small, one room school. In 1914, he was sent to Camp Hill to the Southern (now LWMA). While there, he worked on the school farm, doing everything from plowing a mule to washing dishes. He graduated from the Southern in 1922 and entered Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University), where he earned a degree as a mechanical engineer in 1926. He went to work for Allis Chalmers in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There he enrolled in the University of Wisconsin extension program and earned a master's degree. In 1928, he was offered a position teaching mechanical at Auburn and returning to Alabama. After acquiring his wings, he also taught flying.

     Around 1940, although they had several small pepperbox sawmills in operation, Charles and Solon decided to expand their operation with a larger, more modern mill. The first was built in Andalusia, but eventually there were mills in Brantley, Lockhart, Evergreen and River Falls, a huge and complex operation employing thousands of people. The Dixons were pioneers in forestry management, and their success came from hard work, an uncanny ability to determine the future, and the practice of always seeking the most up-to-date equipment, utilizing the best techniques available.

     Following Charles' death in 1976, the burden of running the vast operation fell upon Solon and in 1978, the decision was made to liquidate their holdings.

     It was at this time that Solon and Martha (Solon first wife, Ellie, had died in 1971) began a series of philanthropic projects. Of primary interest was the establishment of the Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center at the old home p.lace, an ide? that had been building in Solon's mind for a number of years. Given to Auburn University to perpetuate and use as a training and research center, it was the largest gift ever given to the university by a living person. The Dixons have also been major benefactors to The Alabama Mental Health Center and the Martha and Solon Dixion Center for the Performing Arts at Lurleen B. Wallace Junior College in Andalusia and, of course, at LWMA, the Dixon All Faith Chapel, computer room and school bus. There have been numerous other donation to various organizations, often given anonymously.

     In recognition of his years of service to Auburn University and to the forestry industry, Auburn University awarded Solon Dixon the highest honor possible - an honorary doctorate. This was presented by Dr. Harry Philpot at graduation exercises, December 13, 1979. Mr. Dixon is also a member of the LWMA Board of Trustees.

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