The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is approaching in Oslo. The 2015 Tacoma Peace Prize laureate Thomas Dixon, 84, is in town to observe the ceremonial awarding of the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet. Every time this year we host a lunch for the Tacoma laureate, and this is an event we look forward to, as it is meaningful, enjoyable and a unique opportunity to learn more about the honorable endevours of the laureates.
Thomas Dixon, also known as the “voice of black Tacoma” for over thirty years and mentor to two generations of African-American civic leaders, has been a vital force in Tacoma’s 50-year drive for justice and diversity. As they continue to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize, the Tacoma Peace Prize committee thought it was timely to honor this leading figure in Tacoma’s non-violent struggle for racial and social equity. Dixon is the first African American recipient of the award.
Born the grandson of a slave in Georgia in 1931, Tom remained in Tacoma after completing military service at McChord Air Force Base in 1964. Two years later he became the first director of the Hilltop Multi-Service Center and in 1968 became the inaugural executive director of Tacoma’s new affiliate of the National Urban League, a position he held for 34 years. As Tacoma Urban League executive director, Tom Dixon worked assiduously for economic development, job training, social services, and the general benefit of all Tacomans. As a leading black voice within black and multi-racial communities in Pierce County, Tom was in a key position to advocate progressive change to a conservative, predominately white city leadership; respond to an outbreak of racial violence in the Mother’s Day Disturbance of 1969 with a strong voice of non-violence and conciliation; and was a leading figure in the formation of the Black Collective, a weekly gathering of black civic leaders that continues today.
As influential as the Urban League was during this era of enormous and often hard fought progress, Tom Dixon’s most lasting contribution to Tacoma’s transformation since the 1960s may have been his work with and place of influence within the Black Collective. From this dynamic source of human energy have emerged such influential civic leaders as Harold Moss, Tacoma’s first black mayor; James Walton, Tacoma’s first black city manager; Bil Dixon, Tacoma’s first black female city council member; and current city council member Victoria Woodards – all encouraged, supported, and mentored by Thomas Dixon.
Even today, at the age of 84, Tom Dixon continues his fight for social and economic justice with a strong, influential voice in equity efforts throughout the Pierce County area. Dixon is accompanied by his friend and colleague Ted Johnstone.
Tacoma Peace Prize
The Greater Tacoma Peace Prize is awarded to an individual, group or organization in the greater Tacoma/Pierce County area, regardless of nationality, race, religion, or ideology. Inspired by the Nobel Peace Prize, the GTPP was founded in 2004 by Thomas Heavey, Sr. (U.S. Coast Guard Reserve, Retired). Tom developed the concept for a local peace prize, sponsored by Norwegian Americans, while serving in the war zone during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The first Tacoma prize was awarded in May, 2005, in honor of the centennial of Norway’s independence. The purpose of the GTPP is to recognize and honor peace builders in the Tacoma community.