Dick Gregory, Famed Comedian and Activist, Has Passed Away

Pass The Popcorn A Dick Gregory Documentary Has Been Fully Funded + Slated For 2017 Release

Again, this was Gregory highlighting something that was truly horrific but in a manner that made it both entertaining and palatable to white audiences. Richard Pryor may have put it best in a 2004 interview: "Dick Gregory was the greatest, and he was the first. Somebody had to break down that door".

Noted as an independent researcher and scholar of a variety of unorthodox knowledge, he segued from his position as one of the nation's leading comics, to a civil rights activist after friend and former NAACP Mississippi state field secretary Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963 by a white supremacist. Gregory wrote Write Me In! in 1968 about his presidential bid. "For a lifetime, my father took all the hits, however, this hit was too much", Christian Gregory wrote.

Gregory briefly sought political office, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and US president in 1968, when he got 200,000 votes as the Peace and Freedom party candidate. Gregory's family has asked for privacy, and said that a full statement and details of his funeral would be released Sunday.

But what might surprise some is that Gregory was famously quoted in the early 1960s undercutting the power of comedy as an instrument of social change: "Humor can no more find the solution to race problems than it can cure cancer". The cause of death was believed to be complications from heart disease. "When he got that chance he rose to it magnificently".

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Richard Claxton Gregory was born October 12, 1932, in St. Louis. His father abandoned the family, leaving his mother poor and struggling. Growing up mainly in poverty, Gregory would become a track star in Sumner High School in St. Louis and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale.

After being drafted into the U.S. Army in 1954, Gregory tried his hand at stand-up comedy and won several talent shows in the military.

Until that night, he said in a biography on his website, he had worked at small clubs filled with black audiences. According to CNN, is big break came in 1961, when he was asked to stand in for comedian Irwin Corey at the Playboy Club in Chicago. "It wasn't a law, it was an unwritten law until Hugh Hefner broke that law with me".

Gregory then describes how he nearly didn't agree to "The Tonight Show" appearance in 1962 unless he was allowed to sit on the couch next to host Jack Parr.

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He was reportedly surrounded by his family when he passed and is survived by his six children and second wife SanDee Pitnick. He once summed up his career by saying "I've had great success being a total idiot". "It's a wonderful place to be".

In 1964 he published a memoir, co-authored by famed sportswriter and novelist Robert Lipsyte (Reason interview here), controversially titled Nigger.

There was a day he checked into a restaurant in the segregated South, and the waitress told him they were not serving colored people there, and his response was that he didn't eat black people and ordered her to bring him a whole fried chicken.

But Gregory also said in a radio conversation that can be heard on YouTube ( at www.youtube.com/watch ), "I've been going to Black churches all my life, and in every church, everybody knew who the gay preachers were and which members of the congregation were gay".

In later years, Gregory preached the virtues of prayer, non-violence, vegetarianism and raw food diets.

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Gregory was married for more than five and a half decades to Lillian Smith, with the couple tying the knot in 1959.

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