Dick Gregory, pioneering humorist, civil rights activist, health food advocate, and author, died in Washington D.C. on Saturday (Aug. 19). He was 84.
Gregory’s death came days after he was hospitalized for an undisclosed condition. His son, Christian Gregory, confirmed the news via Facebook.
“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, DC.,” the statement reads. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time. More details will be released over the next few days.”
Born Richard Claxton Gregory in St. Louis, the Midwest native married wife Lillian Smith, in 1959. The couple had 11 children (one of whom died in infancy).
His comedy career began in the mid 1950s when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. But after being discharged two years later, Gregory would move to Chicago where he became known among a collective of then up-and-coming black comedians including Nipsey Russell and Bill Cosby.
By 1961, Gregory’s comedy caught the attention of Hugh Hefner who hired him to perform at the Chicago Playboy Club.
Often using comedy as a form of social activism, Gregory was a notable voice in the civil rights and black power movements. He also ran for mayor of Chicago in 1967, and launched a presidential bid in 1968 (he ran as a write-in candidate from the Freedom and Peace Party). In 1978, Gregory joined Gloria Steinem and other feminists to lead the National ERA March for Ratification and Extension in Washington D.C.
His extensive resume includes more than a dozen books, hundreds of television appearances, and countless accolades including a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, which he received in 2015. He is also noted among Comedy Central’s list of “The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time.”
Gregory, who became a vegetarian in the 1960s and attributed his diet to helping him survive cancer later in life, was also a vocal proponent of raw foods, and juicing.
He will be missed. RIP.