Dick Gregory, civil rights activist and comedian, dead at 84

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory, who broke barriers in the 1960s and became one of the first African-Americans to perform at white clubs, died Saturday.

He was 84.

Gregory recently rescheduled an event in Atlanta because he was hospitalized. He died in Washington, his son posted on social media without giving details.

“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time,” Christian Gregory said. “More details will be released over the next few days.”

Gregory satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts, and was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.

He was relatively unknown until 1961, when the prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago asked him to fill in for comedian Irwin Corey one night.

Until that night, he said in a biography on his website, he had worked at small clubs filled with black audiences.

His gig as Corey’s replacement was successful. After winning over a majority white audience that night, the Playboy Club offered him a three -year contract, turning him into a headline performer.

From there, his fame grew as he appeared on numerous TV shows and recorded comedy albums.

When he was not making people laugh, he attended marches and parades to support various issues, including civil rights and the opposition to the Vietnam War.

Gregory was also a health and spiritual advocate and a motivational speaker. He wrote several books, including “Murder in Memphis,” which analyzed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Following the news of Gregory’s passing, fellow civil rights activist Rev. Jesse Jackson paid tribute to him.

“He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live,” he tweeted. “Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already.”

In a message to fans posted on his Instagram account after he rescheduled the event in Atlanta, Gregory talked about the political climate in the US.

“I’ve so much to say and can’t wait to get out of here and say it,” he wrote Wednesday.

Musician John Legend, who produced a play that focuses on Gregory’s life last year, took on Twitter to honor Gregory.

“Dick Gregory lived an amazing, revolutionary life. A groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice,” Legend tweeted.

Fellow comedian DL Hughley paid tribute to Gregory after news of his death

“Heaven just got funnier,” Hughley tweeted.

13 comments

      • El Ma

        MAKE AMERICA HATE AGAIN – America is immersed in hatred, right now, thanks to a complete absence or morals, values, and ethics. In fact, there is more hatred expressed for anyone who isn’t black, gay, or trans-alphabet than was witnessed during the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960’s.

        Marissa isn’t a Trump supporter, you nit. She’s obviously a millenial and, quite likely, trans-species, non-binary, and as uneducated as most of them are.

      • El Ma

        …absence *OF* morals, not *OR*……I particularly love that there is no edit feature on these forums. I come up with the best typos……..

    • wwjd

      You know Marissa, I could ask you to read his biography before asking a question like that — but I doubt you will. Instead I am going to ask you to maybe just think about what it is like to be a “black guy” as you say, trying to live a decent life in this country. A “black guy” has to pass his day with a large part of his neighbors assuming he is a bad person, criminal etc just because of his skin color and most people around here won’t take the time to get to know him before making that judgement. A “black guy” can get shot by the police just for driving a car. A “black guy” may not be able to get a job or rent a house because he is a “black guy”. So, I ask you to maybe consider that any “black guy” who kept his good humor, worked his butt off all his life and in Gregory’s case made millions laugh is indeed a civil rights hero just for that.

      • El Ma

        WWJD, Christian Gregory also lived during a dreadful time when being black excluded him from even the simplest things in life: motels, restaurants, bathrooms, water fountains, etc. During his lifetime, he saw severe oppression in a way that contemporary citizens simply cannot imagine.

        Marissa…….I can’t even formulate the words to answer your obviously uneducated question, “How’s come every black guy that dies is a civil rights hero?” Go back to school, learn to spell, learn to read, and learn about history so you don’t spend the rest of your life making yourself look like a fool.

      • El Ma

        ……correction, “Dick” Gregory. I’ll be joining Marissa in the next Reading Comprehension course. (blink)

    • Lance

      Once again showing ignorance is not an excuse. Beleive it or not there were famous black people before Beyonce Jay-Z etc. These people broke through barriers making it possible for minorities everywhere to go as far as their talent

    • El Ma

      Magicmikexxsm, I have spoken with people who are Gregory’s age, and older. They are appalled by the current goings-on, and video footage conveys this as I never see anyone UNDER the age of 45 at these rallies. Most of them are 35, or younger, and MLK is probably generating enough static electricity from spinning in his grave to power all of Harrisburg. He sacrificed his life for what’s going on, today? Oh…….no, no, I don’t think so.

Comments are closed.