Ivan Dixon (April 6, 1931 – March 16, 2008) was an American actor, director, and producer best known for his series role in the 1960s sitcom Hogan's Heroes, for his role in the 1967 telefilm The Final War of Olly Winter, and for directing hundreds of episodes of television series. Active in the Civil Rights Movement, he served as a president of Negro Actors for Action.
Watch an interview with Ivan Dixon, free from ReelBlack and YouTube.
Ivan Nathaniel Dixon III was born in Harlem, the son of a grocery store owner. When he was young, Dixon lived in the brownstone at 518 W. 150th St. in Harlem. Living on the same block were Josh White, Ralph Ellison and the Hines brothers (Gregory and Maurice). He graduated from the Lincoln Academy in Gaston County, North Carolina, and went on to earn a drama degree from North Carolina Central University in 1954, where the theater troupe is known as the Ivan Dixon Players.He also became a member of Omega Psi Phi, while in attendance. In 1957, he appeared on Broadway in the William Saroyan play Cave Dwellers. In 1958, he was a stunt double for Sidney Poitier in The Defiant Ones. In 1959, he co-starred in Lorraine Hansberry's groundbreaking drama Raisin in the Sun, the first produced Broadway play by a black woman.
Dixon went on to television roles on The Twilight Zone and other series. In 1964, he starred in the independent film Nothing But a Man, written and directed by Michael Roemer.
In his best-known role, Dixon appeared as POW Staff Sergeant Ivan Kinchloe in the ensemble of the hit television program Hogan's Heroes. "Kinch" was the communications specialist and default second in command to Colonel Hogan (portrayed by Bob Crane). Dixon played Kinchloe from 1965 to 1970, making him the only original actor on Hogan's Heroes not to remain for the entire series. Hogan's Heroes ended in 1971, by which time Kenneth Washington had succeeded Dixon.
Film work and directing
From 1970 to 1993, Dixon worked primarily as a television director on such series and TV-movies as Trouble Man, The Waltons, The Rockford Files, The Bionic Woman, Magnum, P.I., and The A-Team. He also directed the controversial 1973 feature film The Spook Who Sat by the Door based on a novel by Sam Greenlee, about the first black CIA agent, who takes his espionage knowledge and uses it to lead a black guerrilla operation in Chicago, Illinois. The New York Times wrote in 2008
Although The Spook caused controversy and was soon pulled from theaters, it later gained cult status as a bootleg video and in 2004 was released on DVD. At that time Mr. Dixon told The Times that the movie had tried only to depict black anger, not to suggest armed revolt as a solution.
Occasionally returning to acting, he played a doctor and leader of a guerrilla movement in the controversial 1987 ABC miniseries Amerika, set in post-Soviet invasion Nebraska.
Later life and death
After his career as an actor and director, Dixon was the owner-operator of radio station KONI (FM) in Maui. In 2001, he left the islands for health reasons and sold the radio station in 2002.
Ivan Dixon died on March 16, 2008, aged 76, at Presbyterian Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina due to complications from kidney failure.