Harry Ellis Dickson, the violinist and conductor who was a decades-long fixture at the Boston Symphony Orchestra and father-in-law of former Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, has died. He was 94.
Dickson died Saturday of a sudden illness at Faulkner Hospital, said Stephen Crawford, a family spokesman and former aide to Dukakis.
The violinist also was the former music director at the Boston Classic Orchestra. He began his career with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1938 and played with the orchestra for 49 seasons.
A close friend of Boston Pops founder Arthur Fiedler, Dickson was named assistant conductor of the Boston Pops in 1958 and founded the Boston Symphony’s Youth Concert series in 1959.
Dickson became associate Pops conductor in 1980 and was appointed the Boston Classic Orchestra music director in 1983.
The symphony named him music director laureate in 1999 and paid tribute to him last spring at the concert opening the Pops’ 117th season.
“I’ve been around so long that all the statues in Symphony Hall were little boys when I started,” Dickson joked before the concert.
During the program, his daughter, Kitty Dukakis, recalled how her father led the band in “The Waltzing Kitty” at her high school graduation.
Michael Dukakis, the Democratic presidential nominee in 1988, also paid tribute to Dickson, saying, “No one on this planet could wish for a better father-in-law.”
Dickson was born in Cambridge, Mass., and graduated from Somerville High School and the New England Conservatory of Music.
The city of Somerville, Mass., honored Dickson by opening the Harry Ellis Dickson Center of Fine Arts and Humanities in its Winter Hill Community School in 1976.
Boston public schools dedicated the Harry Ellis Dickson Orchestral Suite at Madison Park High School in 1983, and the city of Boston opened the Harry Ellis Dickson Park near Symphony Hall in 1991.
Dickson wrote several books, including “More Dolce Please” and “Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.”