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Dick Gregory, civil rights activist, comedian, dies

"I've so much to say and can't wait to get out of here and say it"

Compton Herald | Dick Gregory
Dick Gregory. Photo: Flickr Fast Families

Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory broke barriers, spoke out in support of various social justice issues

LOS ANGELES — Comedian turned firebrand civil rights activist, Dick Gregory, died Saturday. He was 84.

The civil rights activist succumbed in Washington, D.C. shortly after an engagement in Atlanta, Ga., was rescheduled due to hospitalization. Gregory’s son, Christian, posted his father’s death on social media but didn’t disclose information on the cause of death.

“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love, and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time,” Christian Gregory said. “More details will be released over the next few days.”

In a message on his Instagram account, Wednesday, after rescheduling the event in Atlanta, Gregory mentioned the nation’s current political climate.

“I’ve so much to say and can’t wait to get out of here and say it,” he wrote Wednesday.

Gregory told it like it was and his gift for hilarity made his jabs at racism and bigotry easy to swallow for White audiences, where he was one of the first Black comics to perform at White entertainment venues. He boldly satirized segregation and racial injustice in his acts and was arrested several times in the 1960s for joining civil rights rallies.

He was relatively unknown until 1961 when the prestigious Playboy Club in Chicago asked him to fill in for comedian Irwin Corey one night. Until then, he said in a biography on his website, he had worked at small Black clubs.

His gig as Corey’s replacement was successful. After winning over a majority White audience that night, the Playboy Club offered him a three-year contract, turning him into a headline performer.

Though he was growing in fame through television and robust comedy album sales, he remained a staunch advocate for civil rights.

Gregory also was an advocate for health. He created a special nutritional supplement in the 1980s called Dick Gregory’s Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet, a meal replacement food concentrate drink that was highly touted as helpful in weight loss and weight management.

Said the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr., “He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live. Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already.”.

John Legend, who last year co-produced “Turn Me Loose”, a play that focuses on Gregory’s life, tweeted, “Dick Gregory lived an amazing, revolutionary life. A groundbreaker in comedy and a voice for justice,”

D.L. Hughley, likewise paid homage in a tweet after learning of Gregory’s death: “Heaven just got funnier RIP #DickGregory #TeamDl


Funeral arrangements are unknown at this time. The Compton Herald will update this story as more information becomes available.

WATCH: Unsung Hollywood: Dick Gregory

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