Dick Gregory, the legendary stand-up comedian, author, weight loss guru and civil rights activist, has died of heart failure at 84!
A St. Louis native, Gregory was abandoned by his father early in his childhood. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954 where he began performing in talent shows.
Following his time in the service, he hit the comedy circuit, performing standup at nightclubs. His unique delivery and style drew the attention of Playboy Magazine founder Hugh Hefner, who in 1960 recruited him to perform at his Playboy Lounge in Chicago. He was also a frequent guest on nighttime talk shows during the decade.
He released several spoken word albums early in his career, such as, “In Living Black and White,” “Talks Turkey,” “So You See … We All Have Problems” and “The Two Sides of Dick Gregory.” His last, entitled, “You Don’t Know Dick,” came in 2016. He also published an autobiography in 1964.
Gregory became a full-time civil-rights activist alongside Martin Luther King Jr. during the Vietnam war and was vocal advocate for African-American and Native American rights. He also ran for mayor of Chicago in 1967 and put together a write-in bid for the U.S. Presidency in 1968.
In the 1970s Gregory became an advocate of world hunger and spiritual awareness, even developing a popular weight-loss regimen known as the “Bahamian Diet,” with a line of nutritional supplements after gaining and losing hundreds of pounds. He also famously endured a medically supervised 70-day fast at a hospital in New Orleans in 1981.
Gregory remained active on the public speaking and comedy circuits into his 80’s, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2015. He recently released a new book called, “Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies.”
“Love will always be triumphant over hate,” Gregory wrote. “I have seen progress like most cannot appreciate because they were not there to bear witness. … The reality is far from perfect, but profoundly better than what daily reality was for my generation.”
He remained an advocate against police brutality by writing guest columns for various magazines on the subject, and was active on social media. His @IAmDickGregory Twitter handle has over 40,000 followers. Gregory is survived by his wife of 58 years, Lillian, and 10 children.
“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time,” posted his son Christian Gregory, who confirmed the comic’s death on Instagram.