One of the last great gentlemen of our nation’s capital left us last week.
Claude Wyatt Dickerson, Jr., businessman, restaurateur and bon vivant — known in Georgetown for the Pisces Club, Chinoiserie and the George Town Club — died Nov. 29 in Washington, D.C., at the age of 92. His death was due to complications associated with esophageal cancer. He lived most recently at the Watergate with his wife of 22 years, Tandy.
But there was more, for Dickerson led a life of charm, adventure and accomplishment.
“He made everyone feel like they were the center of the party, no matter how insignificant they were,” his son John Dickerson, host of “Face the Nation,” told the New York Times. “This isn’t to say that he didn’t admire the famous and the powerful. He was just gracious. A few days before he died he was still offering us a seat in his hospital room, apologizing for not being able to offer us anything nicer.”
Originally from Roanoke, Virginia, Dickerson moved back from Los Angeles after his World War II service and married Ruth Fowler Johnston, a high school sweetheart. They had three daughters and lived in Leesburg, Virginia — where Dickerson was buried Dec. 2. (Dickerson’s first wife died of cancer in 1960.)
Amid his eulogies, he is credited with winning piano and marble competitions, being an Eagle Scout and a boxer and having one heck of a loud whistle. But there was more.
Dickerson married his second wife Nancy Dickerson Whitehead in 1962. She was America’s pioneering television newswomen with CBS News and then NBC News. The two became a Washington power couple, living at Merrywood on the Potomac, where Jacqueline Kennedy once lived. The house, now owned by AOL cofounder Steve Case, was the scene of high-profile parties, with guests from Frank Sinatra to Ronald Reagan. The Dickersons divorced in 1982. But there was more.
Other businesses benefiting from Dickerson’s attention were the Federal City Club, Doubles in New York and the Palm on 19th Street. One of his last public appearances was at the 50th anniversary party of the George Town Club, which was still getting his advice. And, yes, there’s more.
Dickerson is survived by his wife Tandy Dickerson; his sister, Betty; his daughters, Elizabeth Sinclair of Washington, D.C., Ann Dickerson Pillion, of Villanova, Pennsylvania, and Jane Dickerson of St. Davids, Pennsylvania; and his sons, Michael Dickerson of Atlanta and John Dickerson of Washington, D.C. — along with 13 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.
Close friends gathered at the George Town Club Dec. 3 to pay tribute and celebrate the life of Wyatt Dickerson — as we should, with a wink and a whistle, walking down the streets of Georgetown.