Alex Dickson, 95, 1st Bishop of West Tennessee

Anglican Diocese of South Carolina; 1983 consecration picture by Nadia Striid | Wikipedia

By Kirk Petersen

The Rt. Rev. Alex D. Dickson, Jr., the I Bishop of West Tennessee who after retirement left the Episcopal Church to join the Anglican Church in North America (ACNA), died November 14 at the age of 95.

At the time of his death, Dickson was bishop in residence at St. Michael’s Church, a large ACNA diocese in Charleston, South Carolina. The Anglican Diocese of South Carolina announced that he also served as chairman of a mission to a leprosy colony in Liberia. “His greatest passion was to bring people to a deep faith in our Lord Jesus Christ,” the diocese wrote. “He loved to work with people in small groups, teaching them to pray the Scriptures.”

Trish McGuinn, communications director at St. Michael’s, said “He was slowly moving out of a lot of active stuff, but he was in church every Sunday as long as he was able to come — until the pandemic, and then everything just stopped.” She used to visit him periodically in his assisted living facility, until that was no longer possible. “He was just always happy and involved in trying to help people in their Christian journey,” she said.

Dickson was elected on the 33rd ballot from a slate of 13 candidates at the first diocesan convention in January 1983, after the diocese was created in 1982 as the first step of a plan to split the state into three dioceses. He was rector and headmaster of All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi, at the time of his election, and had served parishes in Mississippi for 10 years before joining the school in 1968.

He was active in the broader church, serving on the Executive Council, as a deputy to three General Conventions, and in a variety of diocesan and churchwide roles before his consecration as Bishop of West Tennessee on April 9, 1983.

As bishop, he oversaw the early years of St. Columba Episcopal Camp and Retreat Center, a 145-acre campus in Memphis that continues to this day as an outreach ministry of the diocese. He helped found the Shelby County Interfaith Association, a social activism group, saying at its initial meeting that people who love God “can do so by joining together with their neighbor to influence the way decisions are made about people in this city and in this county.”

He was opposed to the ordination of gay people. At the 1991 General Convention, he helped defeat a resolution that would have provided that “all members shall have equal access to the selection process for ordination in this church.” He said during the debate: “I have every reason to believe that members of this house will interpret this canon in such a way as to justify the decision they have already made to ordain sexually active homosexual persons.”

After retiring as Bishop of West Tennessee in 1995, Dickson began performing mission work in Southeast Asia and Africa, and settled in South Carolina.

Dickson was born in Alligator, Mississippi, on September 9, 1926, and served on a destroyer in the Battle of Okinawa in World War II. After the war he received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Mississippi, and a master’s of divinity degree from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He was ordained as deacon and priest in 1958 by Bishop of Mississippi Duncan Montgomery Gray, Sr.

He is survived by his second wife, Jane Graham Carter, whom he married in 1999. He was predeceased in 1995 by his first wife, Charnelle, with whom he had three sons, six grandchildren, and 13 great-grandchildren. He also was predeceased by his son Alex III.

A funeral service is scheduled for 2 pm on November 18, and will be livestreamed by St. Michael’s.


Online Archives