Dick Gregory, a Legendary Activist Who Spanned Six Decades, Dies at 84

Dick Gregory, a Legendary Activist Who Spanned Six Decades, Dies at 84


“Never before in the history of this planet has anybody made the progress that African Americans have made in a 30 year period.” That was one of many memorable Dick Gregory statements.

The activist, comedian and writer died on August 19, in Washington D.C. He was known for saying things others were scared to say and telling the truth in public. He often used the art of comedy, which he began during his time in the U.S. Army, as a means of telling that truth.

Gregory’s son Christian posted the news of his father’s death on his father’s Instagram account on the evening of August 19 stating, “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. 

He noted that funeral arrangements would be announced in the coming days.

On August 17, Christian Gregory kept his father’s fans and followers updated and noted that his father, “remains hospitalized with a serious but stable medical condition. His prognosis is excellent and he should be released within the next few days.”

The omnipresent activist and comedian’s life and work spanned close to six decades.

Gregory’s career in comedy was propelled in part by Hugh Hefner hiring him to perform in his clubs and appearances on Tonight Starring Jack Paar.  The comedian and activist rose to prominence in an era that featured comedians who were moving away from minstrel show comedy and instead confronting serious social subject matter through their work.   

“Dick was not just a comedian, author, entrepreneur and a dedicated foot soldier in the Civil Rights Movement; he was a friend and will be missed by many. His unique brand of social satire helped opened the eyes of people of all races around the world. Dick’s keen understanding of the need for black people to have a voice led him to run for Mayor, President, and gave him the audacity to make significant sacrifices in his career in order to stand against, and call out hatred and oppression,” wrote Dr. Joseph Lowery in a statement.

Gregory was a write-in candidate for President in 1968 on the Freedom and Peace Party platform. He won 47,097 votes. The year before in 1967, Gregory ran for Mayor of Chicago against Richard Daley. 

“Dick Gregory was such a powerful opponent against systematic racism, J. Edgar Hoover once ordered the FBI to use the mafia to murder him,” tweeted activist Tariq Nasheed about social activist Dick Gregory on August 20. 

Gregory was born October 12, 1932, in St. Louis. Rep. Lacy Clay (D-Mo.), who represents St. Louis, said “Dick Gregory was a comic genius and a fearless champion for civil rights, social justice and equality.  He used his tremendous creative talent not just to break down racial barriers in the entertainment business, but to open up minds across America to the struggle for full citizenship for African Americans,” in a statement.

Dick Gregory and his wife Lillian had 11 children.  They were married in 1959. 

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Lauren Victoria Burke
Twitter: @LVBurke / Lauren Victoria Burke is an independent journalist who analyses politics and justice reform. She created Crewof42.com, a blog that covers the work of African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke has also been a staffer for the Senate Democratic Policy Committee and Director of Communications for Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN). She has had a very diverse career in politics and media and appears weekly on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin. She has also appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews, Politics Nation with Al Sharpton and Up with Steve Kornacki on MSNBC. She is also a contributing writer for NBCNews.com and TheRoot.com Ms. Burke was born in the Bronx, New York and grew up on Long Island. She holds a B.A. in History from The American University. E-mail: LBurke007@gmail.com. Instagram: LVB325.