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Nickelsville native Jay Dixon: An Extraordinary Life

January 11th, 2012 3:07 pm by Staff Report

Nickelsville native Jay Dixon: An Extraordinary Life

Jay Dixon recently published a novel, "The Secret War," that draws heavily upon his experiences in Southeast Asia.

Jay Dixon has led an extraordinary life.


Dixon was born and raised in Nickelsville, where his father owned and operated the Bush Mill which had been in the family for three generations. As a child, Dixon worked around the mill loading flour sacks and securing them with Miller’s knots.


When he was 18, Dixon dropped out of Lynn View High School and joined the Army. At the time, he said "school didn’t interest me." A statement that is hard to believe today from a man who went on to earn his GED, an engineering degree and master’s degree in political science from Auburn University, and a Ph.D. in international relations and quantitative methods from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.


Starting with basic training at Ft. Jackson in South Carolina in 1958, Dixon worked his way up the military ladder, retiring after 23 years of service with the rank of lieutenant colonel. During his military career, Dixon served in the 44th Construction Battalion in Korea, was a member and instructor for Special Forces, and a warrant officer aviator flying missions in Vietnam.


Dixon recently published a novel, "The Secret War," that draws heavily upon his experiences in Southeast Asia.


"The book is set in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy wanted an expansion of Special Forces to face the challenges of Communism in Southeast Asia. I drew upon my personal experience in Southeast Asia to create the framework for the story, which is total fiction, but all the locations are real," Dixon explained.


The book honors the Hmong who were trained by the United States to fight the CIA’s "secret war" in the 1960s and 1970s in Laos. "I felt a special affinity for these people who basically committed their lives to America and then, when we pulled out of Southeast Asia, were left to fend for themselves," Dixon said. The Laotian government started hunting them down and killing them so I wanted to create a novel that would honor the Hmong and would also bring attention to this terrible tragedy."


After retiring from the Army, Dixon was asked to become a professor at West Point U.S. Military Academy, where he spent three years teaching before heading to the National War College in Washington, D.C. to train America’s future generals and ambassadors. While at West Point and the National War College, Dixon taught national security policy and authored two books: "Military Planning and Operations: The Joint Perspective" and "National Security Policy Formulation: Institutions, Processes, and Issues." The books were used for many years to teach national security policy and military planning.


Dixon then spent several years working with "special access programs" for national defense. The majority of these "special access programs" dealt with the "highest levels of national security" and required "top secret clearance." When pressed for specifics on his national security work, Dixon laughed and said, "I can’t tell you that."


While working in Washington, Dixon met his current wife, Carol Walcoff Dixon, who owned a management consulting company in Alexandria, Va., called Walcoff Technologies. "At the time, Carol’s company was doing leading research on the Internet. This was before people even knew about the Internet," Dixon said.


Jay and Carol were married in 1993, and Jay eventually joined her company as vice president. Together, they launched an Internet program called "countrycool.com." The Dixons decided to spin off the company and go public. "This was about the time of the dot.com bubble burst in March 2000," Dixon said. "We had high hopes of doing very well, and we spent a lot of money and lost a lot of money. It was an adventure that I would go through again. I wouldn’t change any of the decisions we made."


Carol sold Walcoff Technologies in 2000 to DDL Omni Engineering, and Jay continued to work for them for about five years. Then he and Carol decided to form another company, Bellweather Research, in which they performed much of the same work as Walcoff Technologies and won several large defense contracts.


In 2004, Secretary of State Donald Rumsfeld asked Dixon to go to Iraq and evaluate the coalition political authority. Following Dixon’s successful trip to Iraq with Ambassador Gary Bremer and his team, Rumsfeld asked Dixon to join his staff as an undersecretary.


Dixon accepted Rumsfeld’s invitation, and Jay and Carol started disposing of their corporate contracts. The couple moved back to Gate City, Va., to await Dixon’s appointment. Like many political appointments, Dixon’s paperwork was bottlenecked in the White House. After a few months of being home in Southwest Virginia, Jay and Carol decided they didn’t want to go back to Washington - a decision neither Jay nor Carol have regretted.


Using their own money, the couple formed the Southwest Virginia Community Foundation and started work on several Southwest Virginia projects, including renovation of the Bush Mill, Gate City Performing Arts Center, Clinch Mountain Arts & Crafts, and the Clinch Mountain MusicFest.


Despite all of his accomplishments, including being a renowned musician, Dixon is an extremely humble man. If you met Jay Dixon on the streets of Gate City, where he lives today, he wouldn’t tell you any of this. He might mention his book; not to get a sale, but instead to draw attention to the reason he wrote the book - to honor the Hmong people.


And if you ask Jay Dixon about the best part of his life, he will tell you it is being back in Southwest Virginia.


"The most enjoyable time of my life has been spent here in Southwest Virginia... meeting new friends, spending time with relatives and contributing in some small way to the cultural and economic development of Scott County. It has been a joy."


Dixon’s book, "A Secret War," is available through Amazon, IUniverse.com, local booksellers and from his personal website at http://www.jhdixon.com/.

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