“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Shelby in Cleveland County, North Carolina — The American South (South Atlantic)

Thomas Dixon Jr.


Thomas Dixon Jr. Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Michael Sean Nix, October 22, 2009
1. Thomas Dixon Jr. Marker
Inscription. Minister, politician, & author. Film "Birth of a Nation" was based on his novel The Clansman. Grave is 1500 ft. N.
Erected 1982 by Division of Archives and History. (Marker Number O-72.)
Location. 35° 17.536′ N, 81° 32.784′ W. Marker is in Shelby, North Carolina, in Cleveland County. Marker is at the intersection of West Marion Street and North Martin Sreet, on the right when traveling west on West Marion Street. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Shelby NC 28150, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. O. Max Gardner (a few steps from this marker); W. J. Cash (a few steps from this marker); Cleveland County Civil War Monument (approx. 0.4 miles away); Cleveland County World War I Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Cleveland County Korean and Vietnam War Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Cleveland County World War II Memorial (approx. 0.4 miles away); Plato Durham (approx. 0.4 miles away); Webbley (approx. half a mile away). Click for a list of all markers in Shelby.
Also see . . .  Wikipedia entry for Thomas Dixon. (Submitted on October 22, 2009, by Michael Sean Nix of Spartanburg, South Carolina.)
Additional comments.
Sunset Cemetery Photo, Click for full size
By Michael Sean Nix, October 22, 2009
2. Sunset Cemetery
Thomas Dixon's burial ground.

1. Thomas Dixon from North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program site
Thomas Dixon Jr., whose novel The Clansman was the basis for the film Birth of a Nation, was born on January 11, 1864, near Shelby to Thomas Dixon and the former Amanda Elvira McAfee. The elder Dixon was a Baptist minister who also ran a store in Shelby. Educated by his parents and at Shelby Academy, Dixon also worked in his fatherís store. In 1879 he entered Wake Forest College, where he would achieve highest honors. Dixon won a scholarship to graduate school at the newly established Johns Hopkins University, where he enrolled in 1883. In Baltimore Dixon fell in love with theater and, within a few months, moved to New York to pursue an acting career. His disappointing experience there led him home to Shelby where he began to study law.

Dixon was elected to the General Assembly in 1884 and passed the bar after serving in his first legislative session. It was not long before he tired of law practice and became a Baptist minister. In 1895 he left the ministry to become a nondenominational speaker. Having developed his oratory skills since college, Dixon became a famed lecturer during the 1890s, earning as much as one thousand dollars per engagement. While maintaining his speaking career he became a gentleman farmer in Virginia.

In 1901 Dixon wrote
Sunset Cemetery Photo, Click for full size
By Michael Sean Nix, October 22, 2009
3. Sunset Cemetery
Thomas Dixon's burial ground.
his first novel The Leopardís Spots, calling for the exclusion of blacks from American society and for a reunion between North and South. He would write two more novels with similar messages, and in 1905 adapted one of them into a play entitled The Clansman. D. W. Griffith would make the play into the landmark motion picture, Birth of a Nation, a project that took from 1913 to 1915.

Thomas Dixon was married to Harriet Bussey from 1886 until her death in 1937. They had three children. In 1939 Dixon, in failing health, married Madelyn Donovan, a leading lady from one of his films. He died in Raleigh on April 3, 1946. His remains are buried in Sunset Cemetery in Shelby, near the grave of journalist W. J. Cash.
    — Submitted October 22, 2009, by Michael Sean Nix of Spartanburg, South Carolina.

Categories. Notable Persons
Thomas Dixon Jr. Grave Photo, Click for full size
By Michael Sean Nix, October 22, 2009
4. Thomas Dixon Jr. Grave

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 of 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
Thomas Dixon Jr. Photo, Click for full size
5. Thomas Dixon Jr.
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Michael Sean Nix of Spartanburg, South Carolina. This page has been viewed 1,853 times since then. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4, 5. submitted on , by Michael Sean Nix of Spartanburg, South Carolina. • Syd Whittle was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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