Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory died of heart failure this past Saturday, August 19th. He was eighty-four years old.
“It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory, departed this earth tonight in Washington, D.C.,” his son Christian Gregory said via a statement from his father’s rep. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
Gregory was born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1932 and was a track star in college before being drafted into the army. It was there that he began performing comedy for fellow soldiers. When Gregory left the army in 1956 he moved to Chicago to work full time on his comedy.
His routine satirized racism and segregation to largely white audiences. Playboy founder Hugh Heffner noticed Gregory in a Chicago club in 1961, who hired him to perform at The Playboy Club and helped launch his career.
From the beginning, Gregory used his fame to support civil rights and he became friends with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. He was also skeptical of official versions of events and believed many political assassinations, such as John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy.
Survivors include his wife, Lillian, a secretary whom he had met at a club in Chicago. They were married in 1959 and had 11 children (one died at birth).