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
Lauren Victoria Burke is a writer, comms strategist and political analyst. She created Crewof42, a blog focused on African American members of Congress, in 2009. Ms. Burke also writes for NBC BLK, The Root, NNPA and is the Managing Editor of Politic365. As part of a diverse career in politics and media, she has served as a congressional staffer for the U.S. Senate Democratic Policy Committee, Communications Director for U.S. Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) and Director of Communications for Justin Fairfax for Lt. Governor of Virginia. From 2014 to 2017, Ms. Burke appeared each Monday on NewsOneNow with Roland Martin on TVOne. Ms. Burke holds a B.A. in History from The American University. She was born and raised in New York. Email: LBurke007@gmail.com. Twitter: @LVBurke. IG: @laurenvburke. Periscope: @LVBurke