By Sandra Rose  | 

Dick Gregory

Comedian and civil rights pioneer Dick Gregory died of heart failure in Washington, DC on Saturday, August 19. He was 84.

Gregory was among the first comedians in the 1950s to incorporate racism and anti-war protests into his stand-up sets.

The civil rights activist was also one of the first black comedians to perform for primarily white audiences in the 1950s and '60s.

He was arrested multiple times for participating in protest marches and he often went on hunger strikes in his jail cell for weeks or months at a time.

Gregory was discovered by Hugh Hefner at a black-owned bar in Chicago in 1961. One of the jokes he told that night was:

"Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, 'We don't serve colored people here.' I said, 'That's all right. I don't eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.'"

On the basis of that performance, Hefner hired Gregory to work full-time at his Chicago Playboy Club.

Gregory credited Hefner with launching his career.

Gregory became a millionaire when he partnered with a distribution company to sell his weight loss powdered drink product under the brand names "Bahamian Diet" and "Caribbean Diet for Optimal Health".

Gregory is survived by his wife of 58 years, Lilian Smith, who bore him 11 children. Son Richard Jr. died at two months.

Photo by Jason Merritt / Staff

  • Cricket404

    RIP Dick. He was one of a kind.

  • morenYAHdelsur

    RIParadise to this elder.

    Sandra, how you think he felt about Trump?

  • anjanette b

    Them white folks sleeping good tonight....

  • Youshockedme


  • GuestSTAR

    True revolutionary. RIP Mr. Gregory.

  • Kilroy

    Thank you DK. Thanks for the knowledge, encouraging words, the laughter and the strength.
    Gonna miss your wit my good brother.
    Rest in Omega Chapter.
    1906/On the PHI!

  • NYTimes#1Bestseller

    Rest in peace to a real one

  • Wyteprivilege


  • ???TheRider???

    I remember an article, probably in Ebony, he named all his children, including daughter Miss. The interviewer asked why she was named that. DG replied something to the effect of "whenever someone calls her name, she'll get the respect she deserves"
    RIH Mr. Gregory

  • Karen Brady

    Thank you for your contributions and rest in eternal peace Brother Gregory. Your family is in my prayers.

  • E-VannaRootsAllEvil

    RIP Dick!! Just saw a fabulous video of him condemning rascim!

  • PlayerP

    One of the last outspoken brilliant minds....your ideals and values will live on. LLE
    Slightly off topic...saw this recently on a site I love...there many vids with D Gregory as well.

  • TheOwley

    Which is why people are naming their kids Sir, Royalty, Princess, King, Majesty, etc.

  • TheOwley

    That was a good man. RIP.

  • SouthernGirlAZWorld

    Comedic legend civil right activist, we thank you for your light and contributions to this world!

  • Li

    He stayed married for 58 years. Who does that these days?

  • On the radar….

    I know right!

  • On the radar….

    R.I.P Dick Gregory

  • Bonsai


  • Chicagowise

    In my mind, Dick Gregory and Wally Amos of Famous Amos cookies, are the same person. Now that Gregory is dead, I guess I'll finally stop confusing these two pioneers. Sad to learn that Wally lost ownership of his Famous Amos brand.

  • AJ

    He was the truth! #RestInPower

  • Faithz

    He was a true "Trailblazer" RIP.

  • Tammie Reed

    May he R.I.P. I met him once here in ATL, nice guy and funny! xoxo

  • SandraRose

    People who are equally yoked. People who don't rush into marriage based on feelings. People who are mature and intellectually ready for birthing babies and raising kids to be responsible adults. I could go on and on.

  • Renee Bee

    Rest peacefully, Warrior!

  • Malcom Flex

    Wally was a coon Mr. Gregory was a real man.

  • yvette46

    R.I.P True Black Man! !



  • BeUtFullSoul

    RIP Mr. Gregory, my condolences to his family.

  • Chicagowise

    Well, I did see a picture of him grinning and wearing what appears to be a watermelon hat. ?

  • Kim’s Original Face

    Get your rest Mr. Gregory <3

  • Kimberly

    We lost another great. Rest well, Baba Dick Gregory!

  • Lady_Elle

    RIP Mr. Gregory. He was truly one of the GREATS!!!

  • Floriduhh Evans

    THe world lost a great asset with his loss. RIP Mr. Gregory