A former Alabama state senator died of Covid-19 last week at age 78, officials said.
The former senator, Larry Dixon, a Republican who was also a former executive director of the Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, died Friday, the board said in a statement.
Dr. David Thrasher, a pulmonologist in Montgomery who was a close friend of Dixon's, said Dixon's wife, Gaynell Dixon, told him that her husband's last words to her were a prescient warning to the people of Alabama.
"We messed up. We let our guard down," Dixon said, according to Thrasher. "Please tell everybody to be careful. This is real, and if you get diagnosed, get help immediately."
Thrasher said Dixon was exposed to the virus at a social gathering "with a couple of guys" that was hosted outside about two weeks ago.
Thrasher said he was unsure how many people attended, but he said he knew of two other men who attended and had tested positive.
Thrasher said he treated Dixon for early Covid-19 symptoms a few days after the gathering. As his condition worsened, Dixon was placed on a ventilator, Thrasher said.
Gaynell Dixon also tested positive last week and is still recovering, Thrasher said.
Thrasher said Dixon's two daughters contracted the virus this year but recovered and have not been reinfected since their parents' diagnoses.
Dixon, a Republican, represented Senate District 25, which covers Montgomery, Ellmore and Crenshaw counties, from 1983 until he retired in 2010.
Before his Senate service, Dixon was a member of the state House from 1978 to 1982 and a member of the Montgomery City Council from 1975 to 1978.
In a statement published Monday in the Alabama Daily News, Perry Hooper, a former state representative and member of the State Republican Executive Committee, wrote that he was "still in shock" over Dixon's death.
"Larry, although not a Montgomery native, loved his adopted hometown as much as anyone," Hooper said. "He devoted his life to service to this great city. He was a great legislator, a man of great moral character, and a devoted and loving husband and father."
The Alabama Board of Medical Examiners, which issues licenses for medical practitioners, said Friday that it was "forever grateful" for Dixon's 35 years as executive director.
"He set an incredible example of service for us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife, Gaynell, and his family during this difficult time," the board members said in a statement.
Alabama has set state records for hospitalization rates and numbers of new Covid-19 cases.
As of Monday, the state had recorded almost 270,000 Covid-19 infections and 3,889 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. State residents have tested positive at a rate of 34.7 percent over the past seven days — one of the highest rates in the country.
Thrasher said Dixon was the "finest human being," whose last wish was to prevent more Alabamians from following his fate.
"He wanted to encourage people to be careful, wear a mask, don't socially gather," Thrasher said. "He said, 'Let's save some lives.'"