Remembering beloved ABC13 Photojournalist Willie Dixon

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Monday, April 27, 2020
ABC13 remembers Photographer Willie Dixon
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His laugh, his spirit and his passion for storytelling are some of the dearest memories our ABC13 family will cherish forever.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- We are mourning the passing of Willie Dixon, a veteran photojournalist who worked for 13 years at ABC13.

Dixon died unexpectedly Saturday night. He was 52.

"He was a dear friend to us all," ABC13 News Director Rehan Aslam said. "The loss we feel today is beyond measure."

WATCH: In a private ceremony, Willie Dixon was laid to rest with family and close friends by his side

Willie's face may not have been familiar to ABC13 viewers, but the video he captured was Houston's window to the world and some of the most compelling moments in recent history passed through his lens.

"He traveled everywhere for us," ABC13 Chief Photographer Bernard Francis said. "Politically, he and Tom Abrahams interviewed every single presidential candidate leading up to the 2016 election."

Willie L. Dixon Jr. was born on July 8, 1967 in Mobile, Alabama, and graduated from Alabama State University, where he played trombone in the ASU Hornet Marching Band. He came to work at KTRK-TV in 2006 from WFTV in Orlando, Florida.

Willie covered Super Bowls, the Houston Texans, the Houston Astros, and the Houston Rockets as the primary sports photojournalist.

Astros' shortstop Carlos Correa took to Twitter to share his condolences saying, "One of the good ones out there. We will miss you!!"

Willie also covered world events, including the 2013 papal conclave in Rome.

Photojournalist Marvin Suggs remembers Willie for his warmth and approach to life, especially while working in a business where sadness and pain are common subjects.

"He had a smile that would light up a room and always had a positive attitude no matter what," Suggs said.

"He was what I termed the smile of the newsroom," Francis remembered. "He was helpful to any employee and he meant it."

In a sweet moment captured by ABC13's Samica Knight, Willie is heard cheerfully joking with Knight's grandmother on the phone during an ordinary day out on the field.

KTRK President and General Manager Wendy Granato first worked with Dixon as Executive Producer of Special Projects for the station.

"Willie loved covering sports and politics and, if you'd ever been blessed to travel internationally with Willie, like me, you know he loved buying beautiful things for his wife Dorothy," Granato said. "Willie was a proud and devoted father to two beautiful, smart, successful daughters. ABC13 will never be the same without Willie."

As technology progressed throughout his career, Willie adapted and embraced new ways to communicate including the use of Twitter.

His last post on the social media platform came just hours before he died as he expressed support for the ailing Anchor Emeritus Dave Ward, who's hospitalized.

On the lighter side, Willie was known within the ABC13 ranks for his use of emojis in his posts.

"His emojis were a work of art," Granato said.

Outside of the station, tributes poured in from people and organizations Willie covered throughout his time in Houston.

Mayor Sylvester Turner shared memories of Willie via Twitter, writing, "Each time I saw @abc13houston's @13PhotogWillie, he was always professional, positive, and truly brought smiles and joy to the individuals he touched."

"We're sorry to hear of the passing of @13PhotogWillie," a tweet from the Fort Bend County Sheriff's Office stated. "While TV viewers get to see the staff in front of the camera, we get to know the ones behind it too. He was always friendly and professional."

"Willie covered the mayor's daily #COVID19 briefings," said City of Houston Communications Director Mary Benton tweeted. "His professionalism, positive attitude and smile will be missed."

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo expressed her condolences during a press briefing on Monday morning.

"I want to say to his wife and his daughters, and to the entire ABC13 team, on behalf of Harris County, thank you," Hidaldo said. "Know that you are loved, that you are appreciated, that your work changes lives, and that Willie will be deeply missed."

He's survived by his wife, Dr. Dorothy Brown Dixon, and two daughters, Dominique Jasmine Dixon and Sydney Walters Dixon.

The Dixon family pauses for a candid photo on a recent visit to Walt Disney World.

Willie's family released a statement Sunday about his passing.

Willie Lee Dixon Jr. aka Jay left this Earth to be with God yesterday, April 25th 2020. Unfortunately, Jay passed away from a pulmonary embolism in his lungs that, as of now, is completely unrelated to COVID-19. Our husband, father, and rock will be remembered for the immeasurable love, support, and the joy he brought to people's lives. We know that Willie's kindness, humor, and love touched all of his family members, friends, coworkers, church members and neighbors. Please keep his family and those who loved him in your thoughts and prayers, as we will miss him immensely.

Thank you Jay and Daddy for your extreme unselfishness and constant warmth.

RELATED: ABC13 Photojournalist Willie Dixon's daughter shares chaotic story after journey back home from Spain

A memorial website has been created in Willie's honor.

A virtual memorial service is set for Saturday, May 2. You can read more about the life of Willie Dixon in his obituary.