Dick Gregory, the legendary comedian and civil rights activist, died on Saturday at 84 years of age. Gregory was taken to the hospital earlier this month after feeling ill, according to his son Christian, for a “serious but stable medical condition.”
Dick Gregory began his trailblazing career as a comic during the 1950s, while serving in the military, and eventually emerged as one of the first black comedians to receive widespread acclaim performing for predominantly white audiences. He’s known for his long-delayed appearance on Tonight Starring Jack Paar, which he only agreed to after being assured a spot on the show’s couch after performing — exposure usually denied to black comics who were invited — leading to a groundbreaking conversation between the pair. Gregory is ranked on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 greatest stand-ups of all time, celebrated for his sharp tackling of race and politics in his routines. He was also noted throughout the ‘60s and ‘70s for his role in the Civil Rights Movement, public support of the Equal Rights Amendment, activism against the Vietnam War, and unsuccessful write-in 1968 presidential candidacy.
“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, D.C.,” Christian Gregory said via a statement from his father’s rep. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”
Gregory has more than a dozen albums and books to his name. His life was recently explored in the acclaimed off-Broadway play Turn Me Loose, starring Joe Morton. Gregory continued to speak passionately on politics and culture through to President Trump’s election last year, and in one particular Instagram post from March, offered a stirring message of resistance, power, and hope.
As I approach my 85th revolution around the sun this year, I wonder why has it been so difficult for humankind to be kind. So difficult to be loving and lovable. For my militant brothers and sisters, please don't misconstrue loving and lovable to be weak or submissive. Love will always be triumphant over hate. I know I will not be here forever, nor do I desire to be. I have seen progress like most cannot appreciate because they were not there to bear witness. I dedicated my life to the movement. By doing so, I never thought I'd still be here. So many of my friends are not here. They were cut down by a system of hatred and evil. If they were here, they'd see the progress that I see. The reality is far from perfect, but profoundly better than what daily reality was for my generation. Young folks if you are wise you would talk less and spend more time listening to the elders who saw evil up front and personal everyday. #howlong I've been asking this question for over 40 years! How long before we realize our Universal God given potential? We have made immeasurable progress that cannot be debated. That said, we still have a long way to go. I have no desire to see this all the way through, the dreams I dreamed about 60 years ago have definitively been realized. To the young folks of all ethnicities I say #staywoke not as a catchphrase but as a lifestyle. Most of the things that are killing us are in our minds and our daily routines. The way we think, the "food" we eat and the water we drink or so often don't drink. While so many go out and protest the small evils, the big evils are ever present and welcomed into our homes. From the top to bottom of my heart I say #staywoke Love you to life, DIck Gregory