A man of many and diverse accomplishments, John Adams Dix distinguished himself during a long public career. Born in Boscawen, New Hampshire, Dix saw military service in both the War of 1812 and the Civil War. He read law and was admitted to the bar in Washington, D.C., in 1824.
Dix moved to Albany, New York, in 1830 and became active in state politics. A Jacksonian Democrat and member of the so-called Albany Regency, he was later appointed adjutant general and secretary of state for New York. He was then elected to complete the unexpired term in the U.S. Senate of Silas Wright, Jr., and served from 1845 to 1849. An outspoken abolitionist, he ran unsuccessfully for New York State governor as a Free Soil candidate in 1848.
Dix then entered the business world, serving at various times as president of several railroads, including the Mississippi & Missouri and the Union Pacific. In 1861 President James Buchanan named Dix secretary of the treasury. During the Civil War, Dix served in the Union army, rising to major general. From 1866 to 1869 he was American minister to France. Although a Democrat, Dix gained the Republican nomination for governor of New York and won, filling that post from 1873 to 1875. He spent his final years in New York City. A classical scholar, Dix translated several ancient Latin texts for private circulation; many volumes of his speeches and travel reminiscences also were published. Fort Dix, New Jersey, is named in his honor.