Civil Rights Activist and Comedian Dick Gregory Dies


Dick Gregory broke barriers in the 1960s to become one of the first African-Americans to perform comedy at white clubs.

Gregory gained attention in the 1960s as a comedian, becoming the first Black funnyman to widely win accolades from white audiences. "We were the only three blacks in that group - Dick Gregory, Bill Tatum, and myself".

"Heaven just got funnier", Hughley tweeted.

"Laughter is truly good medicine", they said on Thursday. "They have a slum clearance".

Tributes poured in on social media on Sunday with politicians, comics, and activists praising the iconic performer's civil rights efforts. He was among those who participated in the historic 1963 March on Washington. While urging nonviolence during the 1965 Watts uprising, Gregory was shot in the leg. 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).

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On twitter today many famous friends reacted to the news of his death. We're joined this morning by Congressman John Lewis, another hero of the civil rights movement and the Democratic representative for Georgia's 8th District.

GEORGE WALLACE: Hello. Hello, everybody. These 25 seconds will bless you.

"Had I won", he said of his run, "first thing I would do is dig up that Rose Garden and plant me a watermelon patch". We're going to miss him.

WALLACE: Well. I saw him on "The Tonight Show" - - the Jack Paar show. "Then I said, "Line up, boys!" Black man on. Didn't matter what his name was - black man on. Gregory would become a regular at the Playboy Club, telling the same jokes to white folks as he did with his black audiences.

In the years that followed, his star continued to rise after he was featured in several TV shows and recorded some popular comedy albums. "Those of us who weren't destroyed got stronger, got calluses on our souls", he wrote.

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Gregory, 84, died August 19 in Washington. A rep for Gregory told The Hollywood Reporter that the death was as a result of heart failure. You could sing. You could dance, but you couldn't stand flat-footed and talk.

"You know the definition of a Southern moderate?" And, you know, there were people like Moms Mabley and Pigmeat Markham, even Flip Wilson.

One of Gregory's most clever and effective jokes addressed how local governments condemned black neighborhoods with the goal of disenfranchising and driving them out.

In the post, he wrote, "My father, Dick Gregory remains hospitalized with a serious but stable medical condition".

Gregory used his growing fame to push relentlessly for civil rights, telling 60 Minutes in 1989. He's running for president. "I went on a fast, 40 days of water. By doing so, I never thought I'd still be here".

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Richard Claxton Gregory was born October 12, 1932, in St. Louis.