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Margaret Abner Dixon: The First African American President of the American Association of Retired Persons

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Margaret Abner Dixon, the first African American president of the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), was born on August 8, 1923, in Columbia, South Carolina. Her aunt, Emily Clark Metz, and grandfather, Mantle Birt Williams, raised her after both parents died when she was a child. Dixon began her education at the segregated Waverly Elementary School in 1929, and she graduated from Booker T. Washington High School in Columbia in 1941. In 1945, she received her summa cum laude diploma from Allen University (AU), a Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in Columbia, and went on to teach at Saxon Elementary School and Booker T. Washington High School.

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Margaret married Octavius L. Dixon in 1945 and moved to Queens, New York. Their children were Kevin Dixon, Karen Dixon Carrington, and Edith Dixon Bennett.

Dixon worked in the New York City Public Schools from 1954 to 1980, holding positions such as pedagogic of physically challenged students, school principal, director of a computer-assisted early learning program, and supervisor for the principal of the Teacher Education Program at Brooklyn College. She returned to South Carolina in 1981 to begin a new career as an associate professor and Director of Teacher Education at Allen University. She was at AU until 1986. During this time, Dixon also worked as a consultant for the South Carolina Department of Education.

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Dixon was the first African American to lead the United States’ oldest and largest organization, leading the more than 30-million-member organization for seniors over 50, beginning in 1990 as Minority Affairs Spokesperson and then serving successively as Secretary, Board Member; vice president, from 1992 to 1994; president-elect, from 1994 to 1996; and president, 1996.

Dixon later earned a Master of Education degree from Hunter College in New York, a Master of Arts degree from New York University, a professional diploma in Educational Leadership from Fordham University in the Bronx, and a Doctor of Education degree from Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

 

Dixon has received numerous honors, including an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree in 1998 from Hunter College in New York City. Dixon was honored for her alma mater, Allen University, on its 125th anniversary in 2020.

Margaret Abner Dixon, a trailblazer and advocate for the elderly, died on September 17, 2011 at Bradford Oaks Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Clinton, Maryland. She was 88 years old.

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