Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

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Civic leader Leonard Dickerson, born on June 3, 1903, near Edmond, Oklahoma, served on the Oklahoma City Council for twenty years. At the age of sixteen he left the family farm of his parents, David and Ella Hall Dickerson, to join the U.S. Navy during World War I. After returning to Oklahoma Dickerson attended Central State Teachers College (later the University of Central Oklahoma). In 1933 he married Frances DeWees, and they had one daughter, Patti. Dickerson eventually became involved with organized labor and in 1936 was working as Oklahoma City boiler inspector when he was elected to the first of four terms as president of the Oklahoma City Trades and Labor Council. At the time, he belonged to the Street and Railway Workers' and the Steam and Operating Engineers' unions.

In 1937 the residents of Oklahoma City's Ward Three elected Dickerson to the city council, and he held the position until 1957. His early tenure reflected the tumultuous era that existed in the city's politics of that era. His sometime alliance with fellow labor advocate Joseph Campbell and an ever-changing power struggle inside the council, as well as conflict with County Commissioner Grover Pendleton, characterized the late 1930s and early 1940s. But the council did help the city develop, with efforts such as attracting the Douglas Aircraft plant and constructing new city water sources. Dickerson emerged from this period as, according to Roy Stewart in his book Born Grown, "one of the most powerful persons in city government during the late 1940s into the 1950s."

After suffering two heart attacks in 1955, Dickerson decided not to run again for the council in 1957, citing health concerns. He concentrated on his various business enterprises, including gas stations and downtown parking lots. In 1965 he sold his Uptown Parking Systems Incorporated to the Skirvin Hotels for more than $200,000. Later that year, on October 7, 1965, Leonard Dickerson died in Oklahoma City. He had served on the board of directors for the Salvation Army, the United Fund, and Deaconess Hospital, and during World War II held the chair of the local United Service Organizations board. He was a member of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce, American Red Cross, Council of Social Welfare, and State Unemployment Compensation Commission.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 15 January 1957, 10 November 1957, and 8 October 1965. Minnie Drowatzky, ed., Who's Who in Greater Oklahoma City, 1965 (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Oklahoma City Junior Chamber of Commerce, 1965). Roy P. Stewart, Born Grown: An Oklahoma City History (Oklahoma City, Okla.: Fidelity Bank, 1974).

Larry O'Dell

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