Dick Gregory, a legendary comic who was also well known for his work as a civil rights activist, died on Saturday in Washington D.C.
He was 84 years old.
Gregory had recently rescheduled an event in Atlanta due to a hospitalization, although the cause of his illness and his subsequent passing is unknown at this time.
“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time,” wrote son Christian Gregory on social media, adding:
“More details will be released over the next few days.”
While serving as a member of the military in the 1950s, Gregory started his career as a stand-up comedian.
He didn’t specialize in harmless, observational humor, however. Quite the opposite.
Gregory satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts; he was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.
In 1961, he rose to prominence as the first black performer to perform at a white club after Hugh Hefner gave him a regular gig at the Playboy Club in Chicago.
He earned rave reviews at the time and eventually signed a three-year contract to serve as a headliner at the establishment.
Always with an eye on societal issues greater than his own career, Gregory was once invited to perform on The Tonight Show in the days of Jack Paar…
… refused unless he was able to have a seat on the couch.
“He taught us how to laugh,” wrote Reverend Jesse Jackson upon learning of Gregory’s passing. “He taught us how to fight.He taught us how to live.
“Dick Gregory was committed to justice.I miss him already. #RIP.”
A motivational speaker later in life, Gregory wrote several books, including “Murder in Memphis,” which analyzed the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
Also a writer – particularly respected for the documentary “Joe Louis: America’s Hero… Betrayed” – Gregory was ranked by Comedy Central as the 82nd best stand-up comic in history.
“Dick Gregory lived an amazing, revolutionary life. A groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice,” John Legend Tweeted as a tribute to the icon, while DL Hughley added:
“Heaven just got funnier.”
We send our condolences to the loved ones of Dick Gregory.
May he rest in peace.