According to a note posted by his son, Dome Karukoski, on Facebook, Dickerson had been ill. "My father passed away on Saturday," Karukoski wrote on Jan. 12. "It was not unexpected since he had been sick for a long time. I'm sad, but also somewhat relieved. He died peacefully with his loved ones around him. He had a wonderful life full of experiences, that one could just imagine to have."
Added Karukoski, who made a film in honor of his father: "I just wanted to remind everybody to spend time with your loved ones when you have the chance. It's the only the time you will have with them."
Born in Topeka, Kan., Dickerson served in the U.S. Army in the early 1950s and graduated from Yale University in 1955. He worked as a teacher and poet for several years before transitioning to politics. He served as press secretary and speechwriter for U.S. Congressman Robert Steele in the 1970s, and also worked in Beirut as the Head of Press and Publications for UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East).
After he returned from Lebanon, Dickerson became an actor. In addition to his role in Blue Velvet, he also starred on the first season of Hill Street Blues as Police Commander Swanson, and on the soap opera Search for Tomorrow. His other film and television credits include Psycho II, Three's Company, L.A. Law and Little House on the Prairie.
In 2008, Dickerson said that "a third" of his role in Blue Velvet had been lost to the editing room floor.
He was married four times and is survived by five children.