Nancy Dickerson (January 19, 1927 - October 18, 1997) was an American pioneering radio and television newswoman. As famous as a celebrity and socialite as she was for her journalism, she later became an award-winning 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 moving on to the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where she earned a degree in education in 1948.
She worked as a grade school teacher in Milwaukee until moving to Washington, D.C., in 1951 where 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.
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.
Dickerson lived in McLean, Virginia, throughout most of her career before moving to New York City in 1989. She was married on February 25, 1989, to former Goldman Sachs chairman and World Trade Center Memorial Foundation chairman John C. Whitehead who died on February 7, 2015.
An earlier marriage on February 22, 1962, to industrialist C. Wyatt Dickerson, with whom she had two children and parented three children from his previous marriage, ended in divorce. Her youngest son, John Dickerson, serves as chief political correspondent for Slate magazine and TIME Magazine’s White House correspondent. He has written a book On Her Trail, about his mother's life.
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.
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 died in New York City of complications from a stroke, aged 70, and is buried in Section 3, Grave# 1316-A-LH at Arlington National Cemetery. She was survived by her children and her second husband.
- "Nancy Dickerson is Married". New York Times. New York, NY: The New York Times Company. February 26, 1989. Retrieved 1 March 2013.
- 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.
- "On Her Trail". Retrieved 6 November 2013.
- "Nancy Dickerson Whitehead Medallion".[dead link]
- Nancy Dickerson at Findagrave.com
- 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.