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*Ivan Dixon was born on this date in 1931. He was a Black actor, director, activist and producer.
Ivan Nathaniel Dixon III was born in Harlem, the son of a grocery store owner. When he was young, Dixon lived at 518 West 150th Street in Harlem, on the same block with Josh White, Ralph Ellison, and the Hines brothers, Gregory and Maurice.
He graduated from the Lincoln Academy in Gaston County, North Carolina and went on to earn a drama degree from North Carolina Central University (NCCU) in 1954, where the theater troupe is now known as the Ivan Dixon Players. While at NCCU, he joined the Omega Psi Phi fraternity. In 1954, the same year Dixon graduated from North Carolina Central University, he married theater student Berlie Ray. The couple had four children, sons Ivan Dixon IV, N'Gai Christopher Dixon and Alan Kimara Dixon, and daughter Doris Nomathande Dixon.
In 1957, Dixon appeared on Broadway in William Saroyan's The Cave Dwellers, following this in 1959 with an appearance in Lorraine Hansberry's A Raisin in the Sun. In 1958, he was a stunt double for Sidney Poitier in the film The Defiant Ones. He was cast in two episodes of The Twilight Zone: "The Big Tall Wish" as the lead, in a primarily Black cast in a TV drama and a supporting role in "I Am the Night Color Me Black". In 1962, Dixon co-starred with Dorothy Dandridge in the "Blues for a Junkman" episode of Cain's Hundred, which was the highest-rated episode of the series. An expanded version was released as a feature film in Europe entitled The Murder Men and became Dandridge's last screen appearance. In 1962, he portrayed Jamie Davis, a livery stable groom, in the episode "Among the Missing" of Laramie western series.
In 1963, he played the role of John Brooks, alias Caleb Stone IV, in the Perry Mason episode "The Case of the Nebulous Nephew." In 1964, Dixon starred in the independent film Nothing But a Man, the performance in this film he was most proud of. He also appeared in episodes of The Fugitive entitled "Escape into Black" and "Dossier on a Diplomat". In his best-known role, Dixon appeared as POW Staff Sergeant James "Kinch" Kinchloe in the ensemble cast of the television sitcom Hogan's Heroes from 1965 to 1970. From 1970 to 1993, Dixon worked primarily as a television director on The Waltons, The Rockford Files, The Bionic Woman, The Eddie Capra Mysteries, Magnum, P.I., and The A-Team. Dixon's first feature film as director was the blaxploitation thriller Trouble Man. Dixon occasionally took acting parts throughout the '70s and '80s. Notable roles include Lonnie, the straw boss, in 1976's Car Wash, and a doctor and leader of a guerrilla movement in the 1987 ABC miniseries Amerika, set in post-Soviet invasion Nebraska. He also served as Chairman of the Expansion Arts Advisory Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts in 1978.
He also directed the controversial 1973 feature film The Spook Who Sat by the Door, based on Sam Greenlee's 1969 novel of the same name, about the first black CIA agent, who takes his espionage knowledge and uses it to lead a black guerrilla operation in Chicago. The New York Times wrote in 2008: Although The Spook caused controversy and with suppression facilitated by the F.B.I., was soon pulled from theaters, it later gained cult status as a bootleg video and in 2004 was released on DVD. At that time, Dixon told The Times “that the movie had tried only to depict black anger, not to suggest armed revolt as a solution”.
After his career as an actor and director, Dixon was the owner-operator of radio station KONI (FM) on Maui. In 2001, he left Hawaii for health reasons and sold the radio station in 2002. Ivan Dixon died on March 16, 2008, aged 76, at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina, of complications from kidney failure. He was predeceased by sons Ivan Dixon IV and N'Gai Christopher Dixon. He was best known for his series role in the 1960s sitcom Hogan's Heroes, for his role in the 1967 television film The Final War of Olly Winter, and for directing many episodes of television series. Active in the civil rights movement since 1961, he served as a president of Negro Actors for Action. Berlie Ray Dixon, born on April 5, 1930, in Badin, North Carolina, died on February 9, 2019, in Charlotte, at age 88.
Image: Variety Magazine