He was 84.
Sad news descended upon the entertainment industry this morning after the announcement that Dick Gregory, a comedian who was also a driving force behind the America civil rights movement over the past 50+ years, has passed away. He was 84 years of age.
A pioneer when it came to comedy and censorship, Gregory would regularly satirize segregation and racial injustices in his act. He was also arrested on multiple occasions for marching with protesters at civil rights rallies during the 1960s. 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. He successfully won over a mostly white audience with his act that night and, from there, the Playboy Club offered him a three -year contract, which transformed him from a comic on the fringes of the industry into a headline performer.
In the years that followed, his star continued to rise after he was featured in several TV shows and recorded some popular comedy albums. He continued his work as an activist when he wasn't on stage, having attended marches and parades to show his support for issues including civil rights and the opposition to the Vietnam War. He also wrote several books, including Murder in Memphis, a work that breaks down assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. with analysis.
Gregory was recently forced to reschedule an event in Atlanta because he had been hospitalized. He died in Washington, as per the information that his son posted on social media. No other details were given at the time of this writing. "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."
Winning over legions of fans with his acute comedic observations about America's racial divide, Gregory helped blaze a trail for other African-American performers who also feel it necessary to turn a powerful lens onto the country's institutionalized bigotry. His influence on several generations of comedians will not be forgotten.