Thomas Dixon, Jr., Shelby
The memorial to Thomas Dixon, Jr. is engraved on his tombstone, a granite tablet style marker with a low serpentine top standing on a single base. Inside an oval near the top a book, quill and inkwell are carved in relief.
Images: View of the memorial in Sunset Cemetery | Side view of the memorial
THOMAS DIXON, JR. / 1864-1946 / LAWYER-MINISTER-AUTHOR / ORATOR-PLAYWRIGHT-ACTOR / A NATIVE OF CLEVELAND COUNTY / AND MOST DISTINGUISHED SON / OF HIS GENERATION. / HE WAS THE AUTHOR OF 28 BOOKS / DEALING WITH THE RECONSTRUCTION / PERIOD. THE MOST POPULAR WHICH / WERE “THE CLANSMAN'' AND “THE LEOPARD’S / SPOTS,” FROM WHICH “THE BIRTH OF / A NATION” WAS DRAMATIZED. / HIS WIFE / MADELYN DONOVAN / 1894 – 1975 / ERECTED BY FRIENDS
Sunset Cemetery, City of Shelby
35.296100 , -81.546700 View in Geobrowse
Dixon Jr., Thomas. “The Clansman,” The New York Times (New York, NY), February 5, 1905
Faulkner, Ronnie W., 2006. “The Clansman,” NCpedia.org, (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
Kenny, James. “Thomas, Dixon, 1864-1946,” from "Documenting The American South", docsouth.unc.edu, (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
Meekins, Christopher, 2020. “Dixon, Thomas Frederick, Jr.,” NCpedia.org, (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
Miller, Kelly. As to the Leopard’s Spots: An Open Letter to Thomas Dixon, Jr. (Washington, D.C.: Hayworth Publishing House, c1905), (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
Roberts, Diane. “Thomas Dixon, Jr.: The Great-Granddaddy of American White Nationalism,” The Washington Post (Washington, DC), January 21, 2019 Link
“American Racist: The Life and Films of Thomas Dixon,” JSTOR, (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
“Sunset Cemetery,” City of Shelby, (accessed August 13, 2023) Link
“The Clansman,” Knoxville Sentinel (Knoxville, TN), October 5, 1905
“Thomas Dixon, Jr.,” The Historical Marker Database, HMdb.org, (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
“Thomas Dixon, Jr.” Find A Grave, findagrave.com, (accessed August 15, 2023) Link
Friends of Thomas Dixon, Jr.
Little remembered today, Thomas Dixon Jr. was once a national figure, hugely famous as a celebrity preacher and novelist whose early works sold in the millions. Born in Shelby to a well-to-do Baptist minister and business owner, he graduated from Wake Forest College with honors and then enrolled at John Hopkins University in 1883 where he became friends with future US president Woodrow Wilson. He became enamored with the theater, dropped out of John Hopkins, and moved to New York in a failed attempt to become an actor. Moving back to Shelby he tried the law and politics before going into the ministry (Baptist) and eventually returned to New York before becoming a non-denominational motivational speaker. By the late 1890’s his lecture tours on such topics as imperialism which he was for and women’s suffrage which he was against had made him rich and famous.
His modern legacy derives from his novels. Having been offended by a stage version of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin", he started writing novels that defended the white south and argued that ex-slaves had no place in America. His first novel, published in 1902, “The Leopard’s Spots” was the first in a trilogy of novels inspired by his youth, especially his father and uncle who were both members of the Ku Klux Klan. This book along with “The Clansman” published in 1905 became the basis for D.W. Griffith’s 1915 film “The Birth Of A Nation.” The movie was a sensation across the United States and was screened at the White House by Dixon’s college friend Woodrow Wilson. The popularity of “Birth Of A Nation” is credited with reviving a latent white supremacist rage and a resuscitation of the Ku Klux Klan. A series of financial setbacks eventually left him with little money and he died almost indigent while working as a court clerk in Raleigh, NC.
The memorial marker and grave for Thomas Dixon, Jr. is located in Sunset Cemetery, 412 W. Sumter Street, Shelby, NC in the “old section” of the cemetery.
The memorial marker is surrounded by graveyards.