Ronald Dixon, 51, ex-addict who counseled drug abusers

March 20, 1997|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

For the past year, Ronald Dixon would rise before 6 a.m. on most days and head to the area near Gold Street and Pennsylvania Avenue in West Baltimore that he once called the "trap" and where he had spent many disoriented days.

Mr. Dixon, 51, who died Saturday of heart failure at his West Baltimore home, used to frequent the area in the 1970s and early 1980s to buy drugs and hang out with his addict friends, many of whom he had known since childhood.

But in the late 1980s, friends say, three incidents made Mr. Dixon quit the drug life:

He broke into a friend's house and stole a television set and appliances to sell for drug money.

He was beaten, robbed and left in an alley for more than an hour by other addicts after he bought heroin on Brunt Street.

A friend was shot while sitting on a Gold Street stoop awaiting the "drug man."

"All of those things made him see life a bit more clearly," said Jerome Wood, a longtime friend. "Drugs can do a lot of crazy things to you, but he had had enough of it and was ready to do something good with himself."

After turning his life around, Mr. Dixon, a maintenance worker in a downtown office building for the past two years, visited the area to warn people of the dangers of drugs and to show how he had pulled himself up from being an addict.

He'd go early in the morning for two reasons, said a friend, LaTanya Jenkins: He worked until late and "drugs were flying around the area at all times of the day."

"He was real proud of himself. He felt good about telling others that they could be successful and live a clean life without having to worry about getting shot or hustling some money," Ms. Jenkins said. "He felt good that he could go back to Gold Street and not be one of them."

During his visits, he told users what services were offered at local rehab centers, distributed fliers explaining how AIDS is spread and took addicts to breakfast.

"He knew what they were going through more than anybody, because he had been through it, too," Ms. Jenkins said. "He was just showing his love for the brothers and sisters there."

A Baltimore native, Mr. Dixon attended city schools and worked for a city sanitation crew from the late 1960s until the mid-1970s. He worked various jobs during the next 15 years -- including a convenience store cashier and a fast-food restaurant employee -- while battling a drug problem.

Friends said that twice in the 1980s he stayed at area drug rehabilitation centers, each time going voluntarily, and each time becoming hooked on drugs again within four months of his release. But he had been clean since 1989, friends said.

Mr. Dixon, a slender, small man, lived alone in a Reservoir Hill apartment. He walked or rode the bus for transportation, but friends said he was saving for his first car.

"He had a game plan for what he wanted to do, but it didn't mean forgetting his friends -- even if they did use drugs," said Carlos Bradley, a neighbor. "He made a lot of people think about what they [were] doing because they saw how he got himself together and made a life for himself."

A private service is scheduled for tomorrow.

He is survived by his mother, Jennifer Owens of Baltimore; two brothers, Dwayne Dixon of New York and Antoine Simmons of Baltimore; and a sister, Carla Dixon Joyner of New York.

Pub Date: 3/20/97

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