Former legislator, Macon councilman W.M. “Dick” Dickey Jr. remembered

adrury@macon.comApril 7, 2014 

Dick Dickey  bc

W.M. "Dick" Dickey Jr., a career banker who served in Georgia's state House and on the Macon City Council, died April 6. A staunch Republican, Dickey served one term in the state House of Representatives in the early 1970s and served on the Macon City Council from 1991-2003.

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W.M. “Dick” Dickey Jr., a career banker who served in Georgia’s state House and on the Macon City Council, died Sunday after a long illness. He was 81.

A staunch Republican in an era when Democrats ruled state politics, Dickey served one term in the state House of Representatives in the early 1970s and two decades later was elected to the Macon City Council, serving from 1991-2003.

“He was a great guy who was really good to me,” said Dickey’s nephew, state Rep. Robert Dickey, R-Musella. “He gave me good advice when I got elected and told me I’d have to do a lot of lifting those first few years ... and that it’s all about relationships up there” in Atlanta.

Dickey was born in Crawford County on March 15, 1933, the younger son of Wilmer M. and Gladys Neel Dickey. His brother, Bob Dickey, followed their father in the peach business. But Dick Dickey preferred banking and politics. He worked for nearly 40 years in the banking sector and carved out a place for himself in the Republican Party when there were few other Georgia politicians carrying the GOP banner.

Former Macon Mayor George Israel, also a Republican, said Dickey was “a real stalwart in the party, and he was there when the (party) leadership got kind of thin.”

In 2002, Georgia elected its first Republican governor since Reconstruction, but Dickey had been beating the party’s drum for at least two decades.

In 1972, Dickey beat Jack Chiles for a seat in the state House, but he didn’t seek re-election because at the time, he was busy helping run Macon Bank and Trust Co. Dickey was the bank’s first president.

Dickey sought a House seat again in 1976 but lost to Democrat Frank Horne.

During the rest of the decade and throughout the 1980s, Dickey remained a devoted member of the Bibb County Republican Party. But it wasn’t until 1991 that he was elected to a City Council seat.

“He prided himself in being a Republican,” said longtime City Councilman Ed DeFore, who now serves on the Macon-Bibb County Commission. “He worked closely with independents and Democrats on the City Council, but he really loved his party.”

Calling him a “statesman,” DeFore acknowledged that he and Dickey didn’t always see eye to eye.

In 1979, the year Dickey made a failed attempt to secure a council seat, he locked horns with DeFore by challenging the notion that anyone should be allowed to hold both city and county elected positions simultaneously. DeFore was on the City Council and the Bibb County school board.

DeFore accused Dickey of not having “good intentions in his heart” when it came to area children.

“If this Republican Dick Dickey wants to be tarred and feathered and run out of Macon, he ought to come out to the Bloomfield area where mamas believe in Ed DeFore to protect the little kids,” DeFore said at the time.

Monday, DeFore called Dickey “a friend” and someone he had respected for decades.

“He was a fine Christian man and a dedicated public servant,” DeFore said. “We differed on things, but he was honest and as straight as an arrow.”

Salary cuts

Dickey, who was the Macon-Bibb County Board of Elections’ first Republican chairman, also made headlines when he proposed in 1993 a resolution about Macon’s “community standards.”

The measure -- which never had enough council support to pass -- called for a policy that would have withheld city funding from groups that did not meet the definition of community standards. Dickey said the proposal was a statement against homosexuality, adultery and unmarried parenthood.

A year later, Dickey rankled his colleagues when he proposed cutting council members’ $10,000 annual salaries to just $1,000. He said he never expected the measure to pass, but he wanted to “make a point” that the 15-member council was too large and that council members were “overpaid and underworked.” None of the other 14 members supported the cut.

Anita Ponder, president of the City Council for several years during Dickey’s tenure, said Monday that although she and Dickey didn’t necessarily share the same political philosophies, he was one of her go-to people “to talk issues through.”

“He brought a broader perspective,” she said, referring to his legislative experience. “If he could see the right in (an issue), he would vote in favor of it. ... I don’t care if it’s at the national, state or local level, there are people who you feel you can work with, regardless of party. For me, Dick was one of those people.”

One of Dickey’s political cornerstones was his belief in a two-party system.

“I’ve been there and I’ve seen it,” Dickey once said. “The check and balance that is provided is definitely needed.”

Israel said Dickey will be remembered for his thoughts on that subject.

“His main thing was he favored a two-party system in Georgia, and (the two parties) needed to be competitive,” Israel said.

Dickey was never a lone Republican on the council: He also served with Republicans Calder Clay and Jimmy Patton.

“I just remember Dick always voted his heart and his convictions,” said Patton, a former Macon banker who now lives in Tennessee. “He was one of those people it was a pleasure to serve with. He had the highest integrity.”

Dickey is survived by his wife, Emily Hardman Dickey, his brother, two sons and a grandson.

A memorial service will be held at Hart’s at the Cupola at 2 p.m. Wednesday.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.

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