Ivest Tennessee Taps Dickson as First Bishop

Episcopal News Service. January 27, 1983 [83021]

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (DPS, Jan. 27) -- The Rev. Alex D. Dickson Jr. has emerged from a prolonged election process as the first bishop-elect of the new Episcopal diocese of West Tennessee.

Dickson, rector of All Saints Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Miss., was elected Jan. 22 on the 33d ballot of the new diocese's first annual convention at St. Mary's Cathedral here. After consultation with diocesan officers, he accepted election the following day at a mass at the Cathedral.

His election requires approval from the majority of diocesan bishops and standing committees of the Church and his consecration is not anticipated until after Easter. Bishop W. Fred Gates, who presided at the convention, will continue as interim bishop.

Six names were presented to the convention from its episcopacy committee and an additional seven priests were nominated from the floor at the gathering that opened with a mass Jan. 20. Balloting began shortly after 9 a.m. the following day. The convention adjourned late that night to reconvene Saturday morning and finally elect at 11 a.m.

The bishop-elect trailed behind the Rev. Edward Chalfant of Columbus, Ohio and the Rev. George L. Reynolds of Edina, Minn.-- two other official nominees -- and Canon Robert G. Tharp of Memphis who was nominated from the floor until Friday afternoon when he began to pick up support. He won the required two-thirds from the clergy order before the Friday adjournment and was elected by the lay order after five ballots the next day.

Dickson, 56, has been at All Saints since 1968. He was elected to the Executive Council at the September, 1982 General Convention. He holds degrees in business administration and education from the University of Mississippi and Mississippi State College and took his theological training at the University of the South. He was ordained in 1958 and served parishes in Mississippi for 10 years before becoming rector and headmaster of the coeducational high School.

He has been a deputy to three General Conventions, served on the State of the Church Committee from 1976-79 and on the House of Deputies ministry committee at the 1982 meeting. In the diocese, he has been a member, and president, of the standing committee and has served as chairman of the youth and lay training departments.

A native of Mississippi, he was married to Charlotte Nell Parkins in 1948 and they have three children.

West Tennessee was created by authorization of the 1982 General Convention as the first step of a plan that will divide the state of Tennessee into three dioceses. It encompasses the state from the Tennessee to the Mississippi rivers and includes about 10,000 communicants in 34 congregations served by 65 clergy. Gates was suffragan bishop of the former Diocese of Tennessee until the division.