About Utah: Q&A with a Cedar City institution

Published: Saturday, May 10 2014 11:45 p.m. MDT

CEDAR CITY — At 84 years, Dixie Leavitt has reached the age where he could sit on his front porch, surround himself with his grandchildren and inspire them by telling stories of great men in history who have gone from rags to riches and built empires.

Or, he could tell them his own story.

Few Utahns have carved the kind of swath Leavitt has carved, and keeps carving. He is a Cedar City institution.

The insurance company he started out of his basement apartment 62 years ago is now the seventh largest privately held insurance brokerage in the nation. He and his wife, Anne, have six sons who all graduated from college and forged their own successful careers — three in the family business, three elsewhere. The oldest of those sons, Mike, is the former three-term governor of Utah and Cabinet member during the George W. Bush administration.

Dixie served in the Utah Legislature for 18 years — one term as a representative and four terms as a senator, including a stint as majority leader. As a churchman, he took a three-year leave of absence from business and politics when he was 54 years old to preside over a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint in England. Later, he and Anne served a second Mormon mission as directors of the visitors center at the St. George Temple. Today, they oversee the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, a charity that funds over 200 scholarships each year to Southern Utah University.

All this from a beginning that bordered on destitute when Dixie made his way to Cedar City from his nearby hometown of Bunkerville, Nevada, in 1947 armed only with a piece of paper that said the Branch Agricultural College (now Southern Utah University) would pay his tuition if he’d play on its football team.

He wound up becoming the school’s first four-year letterman in not only football, but also track, and served as student body president his senior year. As a green, and broke, college graduate in 1951 he embarked on his chosen career as an educator, staying in town to teach fourth-graders at Cedar West Elementary School.

But when school adjourned and summer came he decided to try his hand at selling life insurance just to make ends meet.

He never got back to the classroom.

Six-plus decades later, every day, rain or shine, Dixie still shows up at the corporate offices of the Leavitt Group, the headquarters for all affiliated Leavitt enterprises, in the heart of Cedar City, just up the road from the home where he and Anne have lived since 1955, and just around the corner from the Dixie Leavitt Business Building at Southern Utah University.

On a recent workday afternoon, the Deseret News caught up with Dixie Leavitt at his office for a conversation about his views on business, family, church and politics.

DN: Thank you for your time and this chance to talk. How much time do you spend at the office these days?

DL: I come every day. Two days a week Anne and I serve in the temple in St. George. On those days I leave (the office) around 10 in the morning. Otherwise I’m here through the day. All I can say is I’ve been blessed. I’m approaching 85. I walk each morning on the treadmill and keep going. I’ve worked hard and enjoyed life.

DN: The insurance business wasn’t your first plan. How did that come about?

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