November 15, 1930 ~ August 31, 2022

Born in: Clinton, Kentucky
Resided in: College Station , Texas

Joe Boris Dixon died on August 31, 2022 at the age of 91. He was a dedicated family man and a lifelong Methodist. He eagerly shared his love of science and passion for learning with everyone.

Joe was born on November 15, 1930 in Clinton, Kentucky to Maude Aileen (Cook) Dixon and Jack Davis Dixon. He grew up on a farm in the Beelerton community in Hickman County, Kentucky. He attended Hickman County Public Schools and graduated from Fulgham High School.

He attended Murray State College for two years and then transferred to the University of Kentucky and graduated with a B. S. in Agriculture in 1952.

On January 27, 1952 he married Martha Jane Duke from Water Valley, Kentucky.

After graduation they returned to western Kentucky where he worked as Assistant County Agriculture Agent until drafted into the Army for Korean War duty. He advanced from Private to Sergeant during his term. Upon release, he returned to University of Kentucky, completing his Masters in 1956. Joe & Martha moved to Madison, Wisconsin where he completed his PhD and post-Doctoral work in 1959 at the University of Wisconsin.

They then moved to Auburn, Alabama where Joe served as Assistant Professor at Auburn University for nine years, teaching and performing soils research.

In 1968, the family moved to College Station, Texas where Joe was recruited by Texas A&M University, College of Agriculture, to teach graduate students and perform research on clay soils.

During his research career, he authored and edited reference textbooks used for the study of soils and clays. These books have proven to be an invaluable resource to scientists both in the U.S. and in many other countries.

During a sabbatical at Arizona State University, Joe learned to apply electron microscopy in his work. This fueled a highly productive next stage of his career.

He retired from Texas A&M as Professor Emeritus in 2001, but continued to work with graduate students, developing a program to reduce the impact of aflatoxins on animal feed by application of smectite clays.

He is survived by his wife Martha Jane Dixon; sons Mark (Tamra) Dixon of Georgetown, Texas, and Paul (Deirdre) Dixon of Tampa, Florida; Sister, Dale Pharis Batts of Beelerton, Kentucky.

He is also survived by 6 Grandchildren: Chandler, Alaina & Brynach Dixon of Georgetown, TX; Caneel Cooper of Fort Campbell, KY, Carlin Dixon of Ft. Worth, TX and Cowboy Dixon of Nashville, TN.

A Memorial Service will be held at Crestview Retirement in their chapel, Saturday, September 17, 2022 at 3:00pm.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that memorials be sent to the Texas A&M Foundation, 401 George Bush Drive, College Station, Texas 77840. Please designate the Joe Boris and Martha Jane Dixon Graduate Endowment in Soil Mineralogy in the memo line of the check.


Memorial Service: September 17, 2022 3:00 pm

Arbor Oaks at Crestview Chapel
2505 East Villa Maria Road
Bryan, Texas 77802


Room: The Chapel

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Memories Timeline

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  1. I knew Joe as a graduate advisor, teacher, mentor and finally colleague. He was dogged and passionate in the pursuit and advancement of science, but also a gentle and caring man. I will always cherish his help , guidance and friendship. May God bless you with his peace during this time and in days and months to come.

    Frank Hons

  2. I knew Joe in a conference in 2000, then Carmen and I meet him in a sabbatical year at College Station in 2007. Joe was a generous person, he always shared the knowledge. May God bless him.

  3. In about 1975, as a young Navy veteran seeking a career in Soil Science, I was directed by Dr. Milford and Hank Mills (two other precious guys) to Dr. Dixon [upon my arrival at TAMU upon completing an Assoc degree in Dallas]. Wanting to be a student worker in my chosen field, Dr. Dixon hired me as a student worker under Diane Brandt (his lab technician). ‘Tomorrow morning’ I was supposed to report to her to ‘wash clay’ from Saudi Arabia. In a panic I thought my college venture at TAMU was over on the first day. Practically in tears, and after dark by this time, I ran (yes, ran) to the Chemistry building in hopes of finding a teacher or grad student who could explain trituration, deliquescence, desiccation, etc, as somehow my six years in the Navy and two years in liberal arts had failed to include such information. The chemistry graduate student I finally found said that Dr. Dixon probably didn’t mean that I should already know how to do that, but that ‘they’ would teach me how to do it when I reported for work (unpanic, but still concerned).

    And so the next day, that’s exactly how it unfolded, but I also learned xray diffraction (n*lambda = 2d sin theta) and goniometers and catalogs of diagnostic xray spectra, as well. Suddenly the world began to unfold for me. The magic of soil: a matrix of myriad solids, gases, liquids, physics, chemistry, biota, macro- and micro-diagnostic instrumentation, math, pharmaceuticals, something to munch on in Georgia (kaolinite), building materials, ceramics, etc.

    Dr. Dixon and his colleagues were sophisticated professionals. Dr. Dixon was almost always in his office writing or editing publications. Under his direction, he prompted me to conduct and publish my undergraduate research on cesium selectivity in mine spoil clays. With other grad students he led us to present our research at national meetings. He introduced me to myriad professors from Universities world-wide, and had scores of sabbatical and post-doc scientists reside with us. I realized I was talking with ‘the people that wrote the books’ I was reading. He asked me to help proof read a few chapters in his massive contribution (with Dr. Sterling Weed of NC State under whom I did my doctorate), Minerals in Soil Environments.

    With political objective or not, and during apartheid in South Africa, Dr. Dixon had Dr. Martin Fey (white South African) share an office with Dr. Abu Senkayi (black Ugandan who spoke Shakespearian English). Cy Chain Chen from Taiwan was in a bind with his visas – he couldn’t go home and expect to return to the USA. We had researchers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Libya, Japan, South Korea, Egypt, India, and many other countries, and a strange married couple from Maryland. Fellow grad student (now Dr.) Darrel Schultz showed me the possibilities of creative scientific thinking (magnetic separation), the essentials of a clean organized work space (gradually forgotten), and the beautiful precision of 0.5 mm graphite mechanical pencils (still the Cadillac of writing instruments).

    A memorable occurrence was when a Peace Corps position opened up in Costa Rica, a slot I had been hoping to see. I told Dr. Dixon I was thinking of going. He said that if I did that, I would never get a recommendation from him (slight but quickly buried instantaneous flash of emotion, followed by this factual statement from him). I realized then, that I was now in a truly adult world where hard business decisions were made, and that my performance and completion were of consequence to someone other than myself.

    At work, Dr. Dixon was, ‘all about work’. Such determined persistent focus! And then one day he invited us (grad students, fellowships, etc.) to his house for dinner with Martha. He showed us his model train set (he plays??), and talked about how he crumbled up discarded sheet rock to put gypsum into his yard (he works in his yard??) to counteract the adverse effect of excessive sodium in city water (he calmly copes with adversity??). He told about his barefoot uncle who would chase rabbits in their yard in Kentucky (he overcame backwoods Appalachian roots??).

    To say that Dr. Dixon changed my life (and the lives of many others) is both apt, and a gross understatement. He launched me into the professional world – no small feat to perform on a confused young man from the suburbs of Florida. And I’m not the only one.

    Martha – Thank you for providing the stable family support that allowed Dr. Dixon to focus on mentoring so many of us, and making countless published and unpublished contributions to knowledge, and to cooperation with humans of diverse backgrounds. He is truly one of the finest men I have ever known. Finally at rest. Fondly and gratefully and tearfully, Dave Carty

  4. Joe has left an enduring mark as a thoughtful friend, accomplished educator, and commitment to advancing his discipline.

  5. Mrs. Dixon,
    I always keep you in my memories. Thanks for all your support.
    I miss our dinner on Friday.
    May God bless him, and all Dixon Family

    From Puebla, Mexico

  6. Joe advised, inspired, and touched the lives of numerous young men and women during his long career in education. More than four decades ago, I was fortunate to have been one of those young men. My condolences to Joe’s family and to all whose lives he touched.

  7. We were blessed to have the Dixon family as neighbors and friends for many years. Joe and Martha were rock-solid in their faith, their family life, and their friendships. Our love to Martha, Mark, and Paul.
    –Dave and Lou Ellen Ruesink

  8. We were blessed to have the Dixon family as neighbors and friends. Joe and Martha were rock solid in their faith, family, and friends. Sending our love to Martha, Mark and Paul.–Dave and Lou Ellen Ruesink

  9. I’m one of many students whose lives were positively influenced by Dr. Dixon. His soil mineralogy course was akin to a rite of passage – it was the toughest one I encountered in graduate school and I’m glad to have taken it. Afterward, over the years, it was always a pleasure to bump into him while on campus or during a chance meeting at a conference. Even though those short moments weren’t very often, his kind conversation always made them memorable.

  10. Fabulous leader of Team Dixon! What a legacy Dr Dixon leaves for his nation, Texas A&M, and his family! Lead on in Heaven Dr Dixon!~

  11. The Joe Dixon we knew was “Uncle Joe”, a loved family member. Every time he came to Kentucky we enjoyed catching up with him and Aunt Jane. He was always interested in what was going on at the farm and enjoyed seeing all the new improvements. Most of their visits we enjoyed a family get together and he, Kirk’s dad and a cousin would reminisce about their boyhoods and the fun they had. When age and health prevented his coming home ,we missed that special family time. Uncle Joe is gone but we will always remember the joy his visits brought.
    Kirk and Kaye Dixon

  12. Growing up it was always fun when Uncle Joe and Aunt Jane came to Kentucky. They always had a humble spirit, a smile on their faces, and a genuine interest in the lives of others. Uncle Joe was always curious, always learning, yet constantly teaching also. We shared a common love for other cultures when I began to travel overseas and spend time with international students. More than anything, I appreciate Uncle Joe for the close relationship he had with my Grandad. Even after they both grew too old to travel, I would sometimes come into his house and find him talking on the phone with his brother, sharing stories and a lifelong bond that time and distance couldn’t break. He will be missed!

  13. Dr. Dixon was and always will be a great inspiration to me! I have joined the aflatoxin project on a student internship and Dr. Dixon convinced me that I could proceed as a M.Sc. student at TAMU. He was the first to confront me with the idea of pursuing a Ph.D.. Today, I still benefit from his motivation and empowerment, still pursuing an academic career and enjoying the fascination of soil clay minerals. His support of young researchers and of international exchange remains a great role model to me!
    Besides the great privilege to work as a foreign student from Germany under the guidance of Dr. Dixon, a great scientist and mentor, I probably enjoyed most our weekly catfish dinners with Mrs. Dixon every Friday together with Marilu and later also Ana at the Dixons house. Mrs. Dixon and Dr. Dixon really made us feel at home and I enjoyed sharing stories and hearing also from the Dixon family in Kentucky, Florida and Georgetown, Texas.
    I bow my head in remembrance and gratitude. I feel blessed to have known Dr. Dixon.
    My thoughts and deepest sympathy are with Mrs. Dixon and his family.

  14. Dr. Dixon has always been a dedicated and productive soil mineralogist. I was extremely fortunate to have benefitted from his work as a geologist-colleague. His major books on soil clay minerals were, and still are, among the most useful in soil clay mineralogy. He was always willing to provide advice to other researchers like me and his somewhat unassuming public manner hid his stature from many, but his important contributions in the field of soil mineralogy leave no doubt. His support for young researchers was well known throughout the world and will continue through the endowment set up in the family’s name.

    My condolences to Mrs. Dixon and all of the Dixon family. He will be missed.

  15. My sincere condolences to the family and friends of Joe Dixon. He was a giant in the field of clay science, and we all benefitted enormously from his knowledge and skills.

  16. About 22 years ago I met Joe as “Poppop” and both Martha and Joe welcomed me into their family and house during Christmas. I am very fond of these memories and I will always remember Joe as a very kind, warm and dedicated man, who showed an honest interest in everything around him. Sending my love to Martha, Paul&family and Mark&family

  17. I am sad to hear about the passing away of Professor Joe Dixon. My sincere condolences to the family and friends of Dr Dixon. He made enormous contribution to soil mineralogy and his books will continue to inspire current and future researchers and students. I have fond memories of him when he visited us at Reading, and we went for a long walk on River Thames near Henley-on-Thames. He was a kind and generous person. May God bless him.

  18. Sorry to hear of Joe’s passing. Joe was wonderful! Never a discouraging word, always courteous, as everyone says. Although I never worked directly with him, we shared the same professor in soil mineralogy at Wisconsin. He got me to write chapters in the books he edited. His reviews were always helpful and so kind. The 1989 version of my smectite chapter even got me a stint as a visiting prof at Berkeley teaching a semester on Soil Mineralogy to grad students. We got through all 1244 pages of Minerals in Soil Environments–probably because it was so well edited! My sympathies to Joe’s family, former students, colleagues, and friends…

  19. I only knew Mr. Dixon towards the end of his life when he spoke more with his hands, gestures and nods of his head. He was always sweet, occasionally stubborn and a pretty great dancer when he would bebop to the beat in his wheelchair. I am thankful for the time I knew him and for being able to meet his sweet family. He truly leaves a legacy of love.

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