It’s with overwhelming sadness that we report that legendary comedian and activist Dick Gregory has passed away. “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., his son, Christian Gregory said in 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 was recently hospitalized and was said to be in a serious but stable condition.
Dick Gregory was known for his biting takes on race in America. Becoming more of a civil rights activists later in his life, Gregory started off as a famed stand-up comedian. He was one of the only black comedians that was able to successfully perform in front of predominately white audiences. He said in a 2016 interview with Jacksonville.com, “When I started, a black comic couldn’t work a white nightclub. You could sing, you could dance, but you couldn’t stand flat-footed and talk — then the system would know how brilliant black folks was.”
Gregory was a pioneer in every sense of the word. Before Richard Pryor redefined what it meant to be a comedian, Dick Gregory broke down barriers for artist of color. He was invited to do a comedy set in 1962 on The Tonight Show but only said he’d do it if he was able to have a sit down with then-host Jack Paar after his routine and be interviewed. That had never been done by a black performer before. Gregory said of that time, “I went in, and as I sat on the couch, talking about my children, so many people called the switchboard at NBC in New York that the circuits blew out. And thousands of letters came in and folks were saying, ‘I didn’t know black children and white children were the same.’ ”
He is survived by his wife Lillian Gregory, a secretary whom he had met at a club in Chicago and his 10 children. Keep them in your thoughts and prayers this evening.
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