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Earl B. Dickerson
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Birth: Jun. 22, 1891
Madison County
Mississippi, USA
Death: Sep. 1, 1986
Cook County
Illinois, USA


Sitting in the smoking room at the University of Chicago Law School, Earl Dickerson read Woodrow Wilson's message to Congrtess, in which the president declared the United States would fight "for all universal dominion of right by a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free." Soon after, he volunteered for military service.

"It lifted me to the skies, close to my dreams," Dickerson later told Robert Blakely, his biographer. "Here was an opportunity for me to take a direct part in the struggle to bring freedom and equality to the world - a world in which blacks could take their rightful place as a result of this magnificent triumph."

A second lieutenant, Dickerson was in the trenches from September 1918 until the final drive to capture the fortress Metz. After Germany surrendered, the 92nd Division stayed in France for a few months, and during that time Dickerson heard about a meeting where soldiers would be talking about forming a veterans organization. He attended that first caucus of The American Legion, and was one of 25 blacks at the St. Louis caucus in May 1919.

Upon returning to Chicago, Dickerson organized a post for black soldiers, and suggested it be named for Lt. George Giles of the Eighth Illinois Infantry, who was killed by shrapnel while leading his platoon into a French city held by the Germans. Dickerson served as commander of George L. Giles Post 87 for four years.

Concerned that some Legion departments would segregate or refuse to grant charters to black posts, Dickerson campaigned, unsuccessfully, for their right to appeal to the national organization. He saw his role in the Legion as important to the cause of civil rights, believing the "contribution of black soldiers to the war for democracy in Europe would have to be recognized before the war for equality at home could truly be won," Blakely writes.

Known as Chicago's "dean of black lawyers," Dickerson worked for racial justice and equality inside and outside the courtroom. He helped organize the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund in 1939, and the following year, he won a landmark case that opened previously segregated housing for blacks in Chicago and across the country. In 1963, during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, Dickerson stood to the left of Martin Luther King Jr.

On the wall of his study, he displayed a certificate identifying him as a founder of The American Legion. At a Post 87 dinner in his honor, Dickerson proudly accepted a life membership: "To the extent that I make a contribution to causes which have continuity, then I gain something which in itself has immortality." (bio by Matt Grills)
Born to Edward and Emma Dickerson in Canton, Mississippi on June 22, 1891.

First black graduate of University of Chicago Law School, 1920.

Commissioned second lieutenant, October 1917. Served as interpreter and led a platoon on the front lines in northern France.

Married Kathryn Kennedy Wilson and had a duaghter, Diane.

General Counsel for black-owned Supreme Life Insurance Company of America, 1921 - 1955.

First black Democratic alderman elected to Chicago City Council, 1939 - 1943.

Argued Hansberry v. Lee, a U.S. Supreme Court case that led to the end of racially restrictive housing covenants, 1940.

Member of President Franklin Roosevelt's Fair Employment Practice Committee, 1941.

Died at home in Chicago on September 1, 1986, age 95.
Family links: 
  Kathryn Kennedy Wilson Dickerson (1904 - 1980)
  Diane Dickerson Montgomery (1934 - 1996)*
*Calculated relationship
Specifically: No burial information known at this time
Created by: Greg Raike
Record added: Jan 29, 2010
Find A Grave Memorial# 47274644
Earl B. Dickerson
Added by: Greg Raike
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To a wonderful man who was a good friend to my parents. You are loved by friends and family.
- Janice A. Knox
 Added: Apr. 17, 2011
WW I Victory Medal
- Greg Raike
 Added: Jan. 29, 2010

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