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Actor George Dickerson, who played police detective John Williams in David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” has died, his son Dome Karukoski announced in a Facebook post. He was 81.

According to Karukoski, Dickerson died Jan. 10 after battling a long illness. He was living in New York.

Dickerson, who was also known for a recurring role as Police Commander Swanson on the first season of NBC’s “Hill Street Blues,” starred alongside Kyle MacLachlan in “Blue Velvet.” MacLachlan played a college student who brought a severed ear to Dickerson’s character. Laura Dern played Detective John Williams’ daughter in the crime drama.

Before acting, Dickerson has a versatile writing career, working as a poet, magazine writer, playwright and editor. He also served as a speechwriter for U.S. Congressman Robert Steele, and as a United Nations diplomat in Lebanon.

After a bout of writers block, Dickerson turned to acting, first having roles in off-Broadway plays. His first TV credit came in 1979, when he guest starred on an episode of NBC’s “A Man Called Sloane.” It was his role in “Hill Street Blues” in 1981 that catapulted his acting career.

Dickerson’s son Karukoski works as a writer and director. His “Heart of a Lion” screened recently at the Palm Springs International Film Spring, and his “The Grump” played at the most recent Toronto Film Festival in September.

Dickerson’s film credits include “No Mercy,” “Psycho II,” “A Stranger in the Kingdom” and “Death Wish 4: The Crackdown.” Other TV credits include “The Incredible Hulk” TV series, “Son of the Morning Star” TV movie, “Miami Vice,” “Little House on the Prairie,” “Three’s Company,” “Hunter,” “Sledge Hammer!,” “Father Murphy” and “L.A. Law.”