It's hard to imagine an event worth attending in the Savannah area that doesn't have Sonny Dixon behind the microphone. The long-time WTOC anchor has emceed everything from parades to Dancing With the Savannah Stars, using his trademark razor-sharp wit to keep the event popping. You can see his brilliance first-hand when he emcees our Faces of the South gala.
Featured in Faces of the South: The Trilogy Edition now on newsstands. Click here to order your copy of Faces today.
Whether he's emceeing a benefit or speaking reverently at a military ceremony, Dixon
customizes his spiel for each particular organization and never seems at a loss for words.
"I've been doing this for so long that it's not a matter of getting rid of the butterflies," he says. "It's a matter of getting them to fly in formation."
In June, however, Dixon met his Waterloo at the Emmy
"When I was nominated, I figured that was honor enough and that it would go no further, especially since the other two nominees were from Atlanta
. I didn't even want to go to the awards ceremony, but since we had station nominations for Best Newscast and Best Spot Announcement, I decided to go with our crowd and just have some fun."
When they got to the anchor category, Dixon was busy checking University of Florida
baseball scores on his phone. "My wife punched me and said, 'Pay attention. This is your category.'" Dixon responded to his wife, "I told you, it's just a question of which Atlanta person's gonna win." Right at that moment, the presenter said, "And the Emmy goes to…Sonny Dixon – WTOC
– Savannah, Georgia!"
"I dropped the phone in the floor – and damn near lost consciousness!" Dixon explains. "I'd not roughed out a thing, having been totally convinced there was no way it was going to someone from Savannah
over those stars from Atlanta. Somehow I came up with something to say on the way up front to accept it."
Dixon discovered his talent for public speaking while he was at the University of Florida, when he worked part-time for a Tallahassee
radio station. He'd been enamored of broadcasting since he was old enough to change channels. "At night, I'd listen to those big powerful radio stations," as sound as alluring as those legendarily seductive sirens. "I even made fake radio shows as a boy."
Later, he shifted his focus to television. "Mom said when I was a kid, I'd sit on the hardwood floor for 30 minutes watching test patterns on TV, waiting for Happy Dan (WTOC's long-running afternoon children's series) to come on, " he laughs.
Having studied business at Florida, he managed his family's company (Dan-D Construction) for a while before being twice elected to the Garden City Council
. In 1988, he was elected to the first of five terms in the Georgia House of Representatives
, where he held key committee positions and chaired several significant committees before retiring from elected office in 1997.
After deciding not to run one more time for office, Dixon figured that returning to broadcasting wasn't such a bad idea. It was, in fact, just what he wanted to do, after all those years.
After working his way up from technical duties to general assignment reporting, he remains a fixture on WTOC-TV 14 years later, anchoring several news programs on weekday afternoons and evenings.
"In some ways it's easier for me. For so many years in the legislature I had to take a position. Not only am I not obligated [to do so now], but I'm actually in a position where I can't," he says. "I've dedicated myself to fairness and the ethical dictates of professional journalism. "I want people to trust me – so I put on [the news] as honestly as I can. What you see is what you get."
To get a copy of this South magazine back issue and read the rest of Sonny's story, click here.