Pastor Ruth O'Carole Dixon, the founder and spiritual leader of a small Pentecostal church who was hailed by Baltimore's mayor as "a walking and talking symbol of God's blessing" on her 90th birthday in March, died in her sleep Thursday at the McCulloh Street home of her daughter.
The wife of a railroad worker, Mother Dixon, as she was called, founded the Holy Church of Christ in 1948 in the living room of her home in the 1300 block of N. Central Ave. -- where she also ran a beauty shop.
Her church expanded to a building on North Carey Street and then to North Gay Street before moving in 1968 to its present location, 1249 E. North Ave. The church, which is being renovated, has about 100 members.
Born in Enfield, N.C., and reared as a Baptist, she was the last survivor of the seven children of George and Martha Hill and could remember picking cotton and tobacco in the fields they farmed early in the century.
She moved to Sparrows Point in 1929 with her husband, James Dixon, who died in the early 1950s. They had one child, a daughter, who is the mother of the church's co-pastor, Elder Christopher Emmanuel Windley.
Mother Dixon was a licensed missionary in the Church of God in Christ, based in Memphis, Tenn., when she became assistant pastor in 1947 of the denomination's church at Lombard and Dallas streets in East Baltimore, which she had attended since the early 1930s.
When the church would not name her as pastor in 1948 because she was a woman, Mother Dixon started her own church at 1307 N. Central Ave. "They didn't accept women," Mother Dixon said on her birthday, dressed in flowing red robes and speaking in a soft Carolina accent.
Though slowed by age and using a walker, Mother Dixon lost none of her four decades of eagerness to spread "The Word."
"People who needed help would go to Mother Dixon's home, somebody sick or with a problem," Mr. Windley recalled during that joyful service.
He added with a chuckle that he sometimes harbored a youthful annoyance with those in need: "I used to say, 'Why don't these folks go somewhere else?' But somebody had to care. Somebody had to do it."
"She taught me how to love people," said Terry Huff, an associate minister brought into the church by Mother Dixon when he was in his early teens.
Mother Dixon was one of the few female pastors in Baltimore, and church officials thought she was the oldest female preacher in Baltimore -- and perhaps in the country.
Mother Dixon, who lived on Brice Street in West Baltimore, is survived by her daughter; 10 grandchildren; 18 great-grandchildren; and four great-great grandchildren.
Services were to be held at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the First Apostolic Faith Church, 27 S. Caroline St., where she served for 27 years as the diocesan mother under the late Bishop Winfield A. Showell.
Memorial donations may be made to the Ruth O'Carole Dixon Scholarship Fund in care of the Holy Church of Christ, 1249 E. North Ave., Baltimore 21202.