Dixon, Joseph (1806–66), catholic primate of All Ireland and biblical scholar, was born 2 February 1806 at Coalisland, Co. Tyrone, son of James Dixon, farmer, and Jane Dixon (née Casey). He entered Maynooth College in August 1822 to begin training for the priesthood and was ordained for the diocese of Armagh seven years later. Appointed as dean of the college (1829–34), he did not take up a parish appointment and was to remain at Maynooth for much of his early career. In September 1834 he became professor of sacred scripture and Hebrew. On the translation of Archbishop Paul Cullen (qv) to Dublin (1852), Dixon was appointed his successor as archbishop of Armagh. His appointment was confirmed by Pope Pius IX in October and he was consecrated in the Maynooth College chapel on 21 November 1852.
He immediately began a programme of renewal in his diocese. Using St Peter's church in Drogheda as his pro-cathedral, he announced on Easter Monday 1854 that work would begin again on St Patrick's cathedral, Armagh. The building of this cathedral had been stopped during the famine years in order that funds could be diverted to relief projects. Dixon set about raising money throughout Ireland and even encouraged some of his former classmates to collect money in Canada, where they were now working as priests. In May 1854 he convened the synod of Ulster, held in Drogheda, during which he outlined his plans for the archdiocese. He also acted as a financial patron to some small religious orders in his archdiocese. In October 1854 he travelled to Rome with Archbishop Cullen and the other archbishops to attend the proclamation of the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. While there, he promised to support Cullen in his attempts to increase the power of the hierarchy over Maynooth College. He also supported Cullen's accusation that some of the Maynooth staff, most notably George Crolly (qv), were promoting Gallicanism. In a tense meeting (15 November 1855) held at Maynooth, Dixon championed the cause of increased episcopal control, alienating many of his former colleagues.
During the course of his career he published several works, including A general introduction to the sacred scriptures (Dublin, 1852) and The Blessed Cornelius, or Some thoughts of an archbishop of Armagh (Dublin, 1854). He was a friend of John Henry Newman (qv), whom he had first met at the synod of Oscott (1852), and supported his efforts to establish the Catholic University on St Stephen's Green, Dublin. A firm supporter of Pope Pius IX, he made several speeches in 1860 encouraging Irishmen to join the papal brigades and help restore the papal states. He died at Armagh, 29 April 1866. After requiem mass at St Patrick's cathedral, his remains were interred in the burial ground of the Sacred Heart convent, Armagh. A commemorative marble pulpit and organ were later installed in St Peter's church, Drogheda. There is an oil portrait of Archbishop Dixon in the episcopal palace at Armagh.