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Former Alabama senator dies from COVID-19 at age 78 and uses his final words to warn ‘we messed up’

A former Republican Alabama state senator died of COVID-19 last week at age 78, reportedly using his final words to warn the US it has ‘messed up’ in its response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Former Senator Larry Dixon, who also served as the executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, died of the virus on December 4, a statement from the board revealed Friday.

A close friend of Dixon’s, Dr. David Thrasher, told NBC News that with his final words to his wife Gaynell, Dixon offered a warning to the people of Alabama.

‘We messed up, we let our guard down,’ Dixon reportedly told Gaynell, according to Thrasher. ‘Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately.’

The 78-year-old, who represented Alabama Senate District 25 for nearly three decades, reportedly contracted the virus after attending an outdoor social gathering ‘with a couple of guys’ around two weeks ago.

Former Senator Larry Dixon (above in 2009), who also served as the executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, died of the virus on December 4, a statement from the board revealed Friday

Thrasher said he wasn’t sure how many people attended the get together, but he said he knew of at least two other men who attended that have since tested positive. 

A close friend of Dixon's, Dr. David Thrasher (above), told NBC News that with his final words to his wife Gaynell, Dixon offered a warning to the people of Alabama

A close friend of Dixon’s, Dr. David Thrasher (above), told NBC News that with his final words to his wife Gaynell, Dixon offered a warning to the people of Alabama

The doctor treated Dixon for minor symptoms a few days after the event, however, over the days that followed, his health deteriorated rapidly and he was eventually placed on a ventilator prior to his death.

Gaynell Dixon also reportedly tested positive for the virus last week and is still recovering. The severity of her condition is not immediately clear.

Meanwhile, the couple’s two daughters, Katherine and Elizabeth, who contracted the virus earlier in the year but have since recovered, have reportedly not been reinfected since their parents’ diagnosis.

Dixon represented Alabama Senate District 25, which encapsulates Montgomery, Ellmore, and Crenshaw counties, from 1983 until his retirement in 2010.

Prior to serving in the Senate, he was a member of the Alabama House of Representatives from 1978 to 1982, and a council member of the Montgomery City Council from 1975 to 1978.

He also served as chair of the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners for 35 years, until 2016.  

In their statement announcing his death, the board said it was ‘saddened’ to learn of Dixon’s passing. 

‘While we mourn Larry Dixon’s passing, we are forever grateful for his distinguished service to the medical profession and to the State of Alabama,’ the board wrote. ‘He set an incredible example of service for us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gaynell, and his family during this difficult time.’

The 78-year-old (pictured center), who represented Alabama Senate District 25 for nearly three decades, reportedly contracted the virus after attending an outdoor social gathering 'with a couple of guys' around two weeks ago

The 78-year-old (pictured center), who represented Alabama Senate District 25 for nearly three decades, reportedly contracted the virus after attending an outdoor social gathering ‘with a couple of guys’ around two weeks ago

In their statement announcing his death, the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners said it was 'saddened' to learn of Dixon's passing

In their statement announcing his death, the Alabama State Board of Medical Examiners said it was ‘saddened’ to learn of Dixon’s passing

Perry Hooper, a former state representative and member of the State Republican Executive Committee, also voiced shock and sadness over the news of Dixon’s death.

In a statement published in the Alabama Daily News, Hooper is quoted as saying: ‘Larry, although not a Montgomery native, loved his adopted hometown as much as anyone.

‘He devoted his life to service to this great city. He was a great legislator, a man of great moral character, and a devoted and loving husband and father.’

Dixon’s death came just hours after hospitalization rates and numbers of new COVID-19 cases set new record levels in Alabama. 

For the fourth straight day Friday, the state recorded more than 3,000 cases of coronavirus, with 3,840 cases. And for the sixth straight day, Alabama set a new records for hospitalizations, with the statewide figure reaching 1,875.

As of Monday, nearly 2,000 people are reported to be hospitalized with the virus.  

Data compiled by the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that since the pandemic began in March, the state has had 272,229 confirmed cases of coronavirus, and recorded 3,892 deaths.  

Residents in the state have tested positive at a rate of 34.7 percent over the past seven days — one of the highest rates in the nation. 

Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey extended the state’s mask mandate early in November, moving back the deadline until December 11. She has so far held off on shutting down businesses.

On November 20, Ivey met with President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris along with other members of the National Governors Association Executive Committee to discuss extending the deadline on spending funds provided by the CARES Act.

Alabama has so far spent $850 million of the $1.7 billion allocated to it under the act, according to AL.com. The state now has less than a month to spend the remaining funds.

Dixon represented Alabama Senate District 25, which encapsulates Montgomery, Ellmore, and Crenshaw counties, from 1983 until his retirement in 2010.

Sen. Larry Dixon pictured in 2005

Dixon represented Alabama Senate District 25, which encapsulates Montgomery, Ellmore, and Crenshaw counties, from 1983 until his retirement in 2010.

Data compiled by the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that since the pandemic began in March, the state has had 272,229 confirmed cases of coronavirus

Data compiled by the Alabama Department of Public Health shows that since the pandemic began in March, the state has had 272,229 confirmed cases of coronavirus

The state has also recorded 3,892 deaths (above), and now has one of the highest seven day average test positivity rates in the country

The state has also recorded 3,892 deaths (above), and now has one of the highest seven day average test positivity rates in the country

In tribute to his late friend, Thrasher called Dixon the ‘finest human being’ whose last wish was to prevent more Alabamians from fatally following in his footsteps.

‘He wanted to encourage people to be careful, wear a mask, don’t socially gather,’ Thrasher said. ‘He said, “Let’s save some lives”‘. 

Thrasher said he was friends with Dixon and his family for more than 30 years after meeting him through his work on the board.   

He added to AL.com that Dixon was popular among politicians of both parties and had many friends across the state.

‘He was loved by everybody,’ Thrasher said. ‘He was a great personal friend, the nicest kindest guy and his last words were, hey let’s prevent this. Let’s save some lives.’  

Sen. Dick Brewbaker, R-Montgomery, who succeeded Dixon and served in the Legislature from 2010 to 2018, insisted that Dixon was his ‘mentor in politics’. 

‘He was a very kind community servant, and he was a real gentleman, a man of goodwill and good word,’ he said.


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