Paul Dickson Biography
I was born in Yonkers, New York on July 30, 1939 son of William A. Dickson Jr. and Isabelle Costance Cornell.
In 9th grade while working for the Nathaniel Hawthore Junior High School magazine I got to attend a series of sessions for young journalists hosted by the Columbia School of Journalism during which I got to conduct several interviews: onewith Robert Trout of CBS News and the other with Herbert Philbrick, a man who had infiltrated the Communist Party as an FBI informant and had written a bestseller called I Led Three Lives: Citizen, 'Communist', Counterspy. Both interviews were published in the school magazine.
In my junior year in high-school I attended Riverdale Country School, a private school in the Bronx. I graduated in 1957 and then attended Wesleyan University in Middletown Connecticut where, among other things, I took narrative writing courses from poet Richard Wilbur and novelist George Garrett and a took a course in using computers to correlate and interpret information—all of which stood me in good stead for decades.
I graduated from Wesleyan in 1961 with a degree marked with a Distinction in Psychology. The special degree was granted because of a research paper I wrote on the social impact of rock 'n roll, a project which involved extensive interviewing—disc jockeys, record company owners, teen-agers from the Bronx and South Yonkers and so forth. Wesleyan actually gave me a grant to conduct these interviews during the summer of my junior year.
Within a few days of leaving Wesleyan I flew to Sweden where I obtained a job through an international student exchange program which netted me a position in Göteborg Sweden where I worked to help a shipping company convert from a system where long needles were used to pull and extract data from punch cards to one which used a computer to sort the punch cards. I then hitchhiked around Europe for several months during which time the Berlin Wall went up and I missed notice of my pre-induction physical. To avoid imminent induction and a future as a private peeling potatoes at Fort Smith, Arkansas, I signed up for Naval Officer Candidate School in Newport RI. I was trained as a cryptologist and served as a deck officer on the attack aircraft carrier Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) where I spent a few months shy of three years.
While on the Roosevelt I began writing for money and sold my first piece to the New York Times (a travel piece on the newly independent nation of Malta which I wrote while the ship was in port there) I left the ship in Valencia and spent a year in Spain after getting out of the Navy. I spent the year writing and publishing articles in The New York Herald Tribune and The Saturday Review of Literature. during which the highlight was getting momentarily arrested and tossed out of the Spanish town of Guernica by Francisco Franco's notorious Civil Guard. I was doing a piece for Saturday Review on the iconic village which had been bombed by the Nazi's during the Spanish Civil War. I described getting kicked out of Guernica by the police as part of the story which gave the story its punch and I was hooked.
After I got back from Europe I tried to get a job with one of the New York newspapers or magazines but failed so went to work for one soul-testing year training to be an account executive for a major brokerage house. After my escape from Wall Street I went to work for McGraw-Hill in Manhattan where I started in public relations but then worked my way into position as a reporter for Electronics magazine which sent me to Washington where I got to cover NASA from the end of the Gemini program through the lunar landing.
While working for Electronics I also worked as a contributing editor for EYE magazine a slick rock 'n roll oriented magazine published by the Hearst Corp. This allowed me the Zelig-like opportunity to meet and talk with J. Edgar Hoover and Jimi Hendrix both in the space of a few weeks. I had written an article on the FBI's plan to digitize its fingerprint collection and Hoover called me in to ask I thought it would work. I met Hendrix as an writer for EYE.
I have been an independent writer since 1968 when I left my job as a reporter to write my first book Think Tanks which he accomplished with the help of a generous grant from the American Political Science Association.
On April 13, 1968 I married Nancy Hartman who has long served as my first line editor and financial manager. We have two children: Andrew Cary Dickson of Portland, Oregon and Alexander Hartman Dickson of Alexandria Virginia and three grandchildren.
Since 1968, I have been a full-time freelance writer contributing articles to various magazines and newspapers, including Smithsonian, Esquire, The Nation, Town & Country, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post and writing numerous books on a wide range of subjects.
I was a founding member and former president of Washington Independent Writers and a member of the National Press Club. I was a contributing editor at Washingtonian magazine and served as a consulting editor at both Merriam-Webster, Inc and Dover Publications.
Awards, Grants, Fellowships & Pats on the Back:
Paul Dickson received a University Fellowship for reporters from the American Political Science Association to research and write his first book, Think Tanks which was published in 1971. For his book The Electronic Battlefield (1976), about the impact automatic weapons systems have had on modern warfare, he received a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism to support his efforts to get certain Vietnam-era Pentagon files declassified.
In April, 1986 I received the first Philip M. Stern Memorial Award from Washington Independent Writers for my "...exemplary contributions to fellow writers and to the writing profession."
The original Dickson Baseball Dictionary was awarded the 1989 Macmillan-SABR Award for Baseball Research. The first and third editions of The Dickson Baseball Dictionary were named by the New York Public Library as one of the best reference books of 1989 and 2009 respectively. In 2010 The Wall Street Journal named the dictionary as one of the top five baseball books of all time.
His first biography Bill Veeck: Baseball's Greatest Maverick, published in 2012, was awarded the Jerome Holtzman Award from the Chicago Baseball Museum, the Reader's Choice Award for the best baseball book of 2012 from the Special Libraries Association and the Casey Award from Spitball magazine also for the best baseball book of 2012.
Dickson was also awarded the Tony Salin Award from the Baseball Reliquary in 2011 for his role in preserving baseball history. He was also a 2012 recipient of the Henry Chadwick Award which was established in November 2009 by the Society of American Baseball Researchers (SABR) to honor "baseball's great researchers for their invaluable contributions to making baseball the game that links America's present with its past."
In 2001 I was honored as a Distinguished Alumnae of Wesleyan University.