Comedian and American civil rights activist Dick Gregory (born Richard Claxton Gregory) passed away of heart failure at a Washington D.C. hospital on August 19, 2017. He was 84 years old.
Gregory, a social critic, writer, entrepreneur, conspiracy theorist, and occasional actor became a pioneer in stand-up comedy for his “no-holds-barred” sets, in which he mocked bigotry and racism. He performed primarily to black audiences at segregated clubs until 1961, when he became the first black comedian to successfully cross over to white audiences, appearing on television and putting out comedy record albums. Gregory was noted for his political and social activism, beginning in the civil rights movement in the 1960s. He attended the historic 1963 March on Washington.
He was at the forefront of political activism in the 1960s, when he protested the Vietnam War and racial injustice. Hunger strikes were a frequent activist tool for Gregory. He told Juan Williams on Talk of the Nation that he went without solid food for two and a half years to protest the war in Vietnam.
Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago in 1967 and ran for president in 1968 under the Freedom and Peace Party. He was on the ballot in eight states and got 47,133 votes. He was also an inspired health guru, who doled out advice to many for better living, including celebrities like Michael Jackson, whom he advised during the singer’s trial.
He later became a motivational speaker and author, primarily promoting spirituality.
Gregory was married to his wife Lillian for more than 50 years and had 10 children.