Chris Dickerson -- the first Black Mr. America and first openly gay man to be Mr. Olympia -- died after a reported heart ailment. He was 82 years old.
Dickerson's friend, Bill Neylon, told the Washington Post Chris had died at a hospital in Fort Lauderdale, FL on December 23 ... after struggling with complications to his heart.
Neylon added Chris had been staying in a rehabilitation center in Florida prior to his death.
Dickerson -- who stood just 5'6" inches tall -- was a pioneer in his industry ... winning the crown of Mr. America in 1970 and Mr. Olympia in 1982.
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Some of his most notable wins were victories at Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness Grand Prix competitions in multiple states.
The legendary bodybuilder had a storied career spanning more than three decades ... winning 50 titles during that time.
Chris had suffered a broken hip in 2020 -- he also experienced a heart attack and contracted COVID-19 before his passing, Bill told the outlet.