Chris Dickerson, Legendary Bodybuilder Who Was First Black Mr. America, Dead at 82

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Chris Dickerson
Chris Dickerson

DMI/The LIFE Picture Collection/Shutterstock

Legendary bodybuilder Chris Dickerson, who made history as the first-ever Black Mr. America, died on Dec. 23, according to multiple outlets. He was 82.

Dickerson died at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after struggling with a heart ailment, his friend Bill Neylon said, the Washington Post reported.

Neylon told the outlet that the bodybuilder had broken his hip in 2020, and also experienced a heart attack and contracted COVID-19. He was living in a Fort Lauderdale rehab center prior to his death, Neylon said.

Dickerson blazed many trails throughout his career, including becoming the first openly gay Mr. Olympia, a men's professional bodybuilding contest, in 1982. Throughout his lengthy career, Dickerson amassed 50 titles, including wins at International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Grand Prix competitions in multiple states, the Post said.

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Chris Dickerson
Chris Dickerson

Marty Lederhandler/AP/Shutterstock

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"He brought class and dignity and culture to bodybuilding," Neylon told The New York Times.

Samir Bannout, a close friend and rival of Dickerson, also praised him in a phone interview with the Times.

"He was masterful," said Bannout, a fellow Mr. Olympia champion, winning in 1983. "He had more confidence than anyone out there."

While he refrained from speaking about his personal life during his career, Dickerson often stood by the sport breaking down misconceptions about it.

"Some people like flashy cars, some like flashy hairdos; we like healthy bodies," said Dickerson once per the Post. "Everybody's got their own thing, and ours is no funnier than anybody else."