Nancy Dickerson, circa 1970
Nancy Conners Hanschman
January 19, 1927
|Died||October 18, 1997 (aged 70)|
|Known for||Radio and Television Journalist|
|Children||2 including John Dickerson|
Nancy Dickerson (January 19, 1927 – October 18, 1997) was a pioneering American radio and television journalist. As famous as a celebrity and socialite as she was for her journalism, she later became an independent producer of documentaries.
Born Nancy Conners Hanschman in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, a suburb of Milwaukee, Nancy Dickerson first attended Clarke College in Dubuque, Iowa, for two years before transferring to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she earned a degree in education in 1948.
She worked as a grade school teacher in Milwaukee, before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1951. She took courses in speech and drama at The Catholic University of America to improve the skills she would need to pursue her dream of becoming a broadcaster. It was in her next position, as a Senate Foreign Relations Committee researcher, that she would develop a passion for the inner workings of government, which would define her career of more than four decades.
Although the field of television journalism was almost entirely dominated by men at the time, Dickerson got her break in 1954, when she was hired by CBS News's Washington bureau to produce a radio show called Capital Cloakroom. She would also become associate producer of Face the Nation. In 1960, CBS made her its first female correspondent.
She reported for NBC News from 1963 to 1970, covering all the pivotal stories of that time: political conventions, election campaigns, inaugurations, Capitol Hill, and the White House. She is noted as being the first woman correspondent on the floor of a political convention. In 1963, she covered the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, in which Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. She was also part of NBC's coverage of President Kennedy's assassination and funeral. Her narration is heard on the NBC videotape at the Andrews Air Force Base arrival of the late president's remains and the statement made by the newly sworn in Lyndon B. Johnson in Washington D.C. She narrated the arrival along NBC Congressional correspondent, Bob Abernethy. Ray Scherer contributed to the narration in 1965 during a conversation that NBC Director Max Schindler directed the coverage of the arrival for the networks did with Johnson at the White House for the TV networks, being the White House correspondent during the LBJ White House years.
Dickerson left the network in 1971 to become an independent broadcaster and producer, syndicating a daily news program, Inside Washington. In 1980, she founded the Television Corporation of America, through which she produced documentaries for PBS and others. Most notable among these was "784 Days That Changed America—From Watergate to Resignation," for which she received a Peabody Award and the Silver Gavel Award from the American Bar Association.
On February 22, 1962, she married industrialist C. Wyatt Dickerson, and became stepmother to his three daughters from a prior marriage. They had two sons together, Michael and John. They lived at "Merrywood," a 46-acre estate in McLean, Virginia throughout most of the marriage, which ended in divorce.
In her 1976 memoir Among Those Present, she recalled that The Washington Daily News once offered her a job as women's editor but that she turned it down because "it seemed outlandish to try to change the world writing shopping and food columns." She appeared as a mystery guest on the game show What's My Line?
Dickerson moved to New York City in 1989. On February 25, 1989, she married former Goldman Sachs chairman John C. Whitehead. He later served as World Trade Center Memorial Foundation chairman, and died on February 7, 2015.
Dickerson died in New York City on October 18, 1997, of complications from a stroke, aged 70. She is buried at Arlington National Cemetery – Section 3, Grave# 1316-A-LH – alongside Whitehead, who had been a commander in the Navy. She was survived by her children.
Her younger son, John Dickerson, is a journalist who previously hosted the CBS News program Face the Nation and co-hosted on CBS This Morning. He wrote a book, On Her Trail, about his mother's life.
- In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Dickerson's name and picture.
- Dickerson was a past vice president of the National Press Club. The Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Medallion is awarded annually by Clarke University to an outstanding professional in mass communication.
- "NBC Director Recalls Historic Coverage of JFK's Death". NBCWashington.com. 21 November 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2019.
A few years later, President Johnson told Schindler that he was watching TV before he stepped out of Air Force One. When the camera panned back to the plane, he saw it as his signal to come out and address the nation.
- Dickerson, John (2006). On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News' First Woman Star. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 153. ISBN 978-0-7432-8783-8.
- Merrywood, from the Gilded Era.
- Dickerson, John. "Growing Up in a Glamorous Neverland". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 May 2017.
- "Nancy Dickerson is Married". The New York Times. 26 February 1989. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- Smith, J. Y. (19 October 1997). "Newswoman Nancy Dickerson dies". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- Dickerson, John (20 October 2006). "Googling My Mother". The Washington Post. Retrieved 31 December 2016.
- "On Her Trail". Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- Wulf, Steve (23 March 2015). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 4 June 2015.
- "Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Medallion". Archived from the original on 7 September 2006.
- Nancy Dickerson at Find a Grave
- Nancy Dickerson's gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery.
- "On Her Trail: My Mother, Nancy Dickerson, TV News' First Woman Star. A book by her son, John Dickerson.