Chris Dickerson, Who Broke Bodybuilding Barriers, Dies at 82

Chris Dickerson with his Mr. America trophy in 1970. He captured the prize that year, the first Black man to do so, and went on to become one of bodybuilding’s elite competitors.

Nicknamed “Diamond Calves,” he was the first Black man to win the Mr. America contest. As a gay man, he said, he also felt bigotry over his sexual orientation.

Dickerson’s friend, Bill Neylon, told the Washington Post Chris had died at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, FL on December 23 … after struggling with complications to his heart.

Neylon added Chris had been staying in a rehabilitation center in Florida prior to his death.

Dickerson — who stood just 5’6″ inches tall — was a pioneer in his industry … winning the crown of Mr. America in 1970 and Mr. Olympia in 1982.

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.

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.”


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