The first Black bodybuilder to be named Mr. America has died at 82.
According to his friend Bill Neylon, a gym owner and former amateur bodybuilder who trained with Dickerson, he resided at a rehab center in Fort Lauderdale and died of a heart ailment. He had been there since being hospitalized for a broken hip in 2020 and then suffering a heart attack and contracting COVID-19.
Dickerson also had the distinction of being the first openly gay Mr. Olympia.
He had a great physique for the days that straddled the line between the aesthetics of the golden era and the mass monsters of the 90s/00s.
Brilliant in the posing routine, held the record of the oldest Mr Olympia winner, and was the first openly gay Pro BB 🖤 pic.twitter.com/os9mQJsDXO
— Giuseppe Iannucci (@peppexv) January 8, 2022
Throughout his career, which spanned more than three decades, he amassed more than 50 titles.
In 1970, Dickerson won the Amateur Athletic Union’s Mr. America title, and at 5 foot, 7 inches, became one of the competition’s shortest champions and was the first Black winner.
In 1982 at the age of 43, he again made history by becoming the oldest man to win the Mr. Olympia title. After finishing in fourth place at the inaugural Masters Olympia competition, for former champions who were older than 40, he retired in 1994.
Dickerson was inducted into the International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Muscle Beach Venice Hall of Fame in 2014.
“He was one of the nicest people in the entire sport,” said Samir Bannout, the 1983 Mr. Olympia champion. “He had no chip on his shoulder. When he won the Mr. Olympia, he was still a normal guy. Now you see guys win and you can’t talk to them. They walk in the gym and they think they own the world.”