Dick Whittington grew up in Los Angeles. At sixteen he studied with Sam Saxe, possibly the only jazz piano teacher of that era, who taught keyboard harmony and improvisation by analyzing the music of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, and other great jazz pianists.
After high school Dick began sitting in with the great musicians on L.A.'s vibrant South-Central jazz scene. While attending Cal State Northridge, where he received a degree in Elementary Education, he was working gigs with Bobby Hutcherson, Sonny Criss, Barney Kessel, Charles Lloyd, Charlie Hayden, Scott Lafaro, Gary Peacock, and Billy Higgins, later accompanying vocalists Anita O'Day, Ernestine Anderson, Dinah Washington, and Mel Torme.
When a 1961 tour with saxophonist Dexter Gordon concluded at San Francisco's Jazz Workshop, Dick relocated to Berkeley, spending the next 30 years teaching Jazz Education in the Berkeley Public Schools, where he co-founded the nationally recognized Jazz Band Program