Dr. Henry Lake Dickason


Dr. Henry Lake Dickason is a native of Monroe County, and someone who is not recognized like he should. Mrs. Becky Crabtree is a teacher at James Monroe High School in Monroe County and wrote a book about Dr. Dickason entitled Try and Be Somebody. I had the opportunity and privilege to read the book and discuss more about Dr. Dickason with her. Based on what I have researched, Dr. Dickason was a very hard-working and driven young man. He worked hard to get an education, which was not easy for an African American man in Appalachia. Both of Dickason’s grandparents were slaves, and economically he was disadvantaged. African American kids were not allowed to go to school beyond 8th grade but Dickason’s parents were able to send him to the Bluefield Colored Institute, where he received a 4 year degree. In 1917, he enrolled in Ohio State University receiving a masters in Math and two honorary PhDs in mathematics. Dr. Dickason’s hard work paid off,  later in life he became the first President of Bluefield State College.

One of the most incredible things I learned about Dr. Dickason is how hard he kept fighting even through the difficult times. Not only was he struggling because of his race, but he witnessed a lot of tragedy in his personal life. His younger sister passed away at a young age due to an illness. His father died suddenly in a tragic farming accident not long after his first wife and child passed away. All these events slowed Dr. Dickason down a little bit, but he kept pushing. Dr. Dickson died from a pulmonary infarction on April 6, 1957. He lived a long and successful life, and left a legacy that deserves to be remembered. A quote his father always said to him that he lived by was, “Try and be somebody,” the chosen title of Mrs. Crabtree’s biography of him.  Dr. Dickason must have carried this phrase with him because he did become somebody.