Dick Gregory, the US civil rights activist and comedian who used humour to break down racial barriers, has died aged 84.
His son Christian said that he passed away late on Saturday in Washington after spending a week in hospital fighting a bacterial infection.
The Gregory family confirmed on instagram, “that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC.”
It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend… https://t.co/UL9ATwwBxv
— Dick Gregory (@IAmDickGregory) August 20, 2017
The Independent reports:
Gregory briefly sought political office, running unsuccessfully to be mayor of Chicago in 1966 and the US President in 1968, when he got 200,000 votes as the Peace and Freedom party candidate.
In the late 1960s, he befriended John Lennon and was among the voices heard on Lennon’s anti-war anthem “Give Peace a Chance,” recorded in the Montreal hotel room where Lennon and Yoko Ono were staging a “bed-in” for peace.
Dick Gregory, Truth teller, make you fall on your face laughing Comedian, health man before it was cool & crazy expensive unapologetic
— Whoopi Goldberg (@WhoopiGoldberg) August 20, 2017
An admirer of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr, Gregory rejected violence and became a vegetarian and marathon-runner.
He preached about the transformative powers of prayer and good health. Once an overweight smoker and drinker, he became a trim, energetic proponent of liquid meals and raw food diets. In the late 1980s, he developed and distributed products for the popular Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet.
When diagnosed with lymphoma in 2000, he fought it with herbs, exercise and vitamins. It later went into remission.
He took a break from performing in comedy clubs, saying the alcohol and smoke in such environments were unhealthy, and focused on lecturing and writing more than a dozen books, including an autobiography and a memoir.
On a number of occasions, Gregory went without solid foods for a week to draw attention to causes such as Middle East peace, American hostages in Iran, animal rights, police brutality, the Equal Rights Amendment for women, and to support pop singer Michael Jackson after he was charged with sexual molestation in 2004.
“We thought I was going to be a great athlete, and we were wrong, and I thought I was going to be a great entertainer, and that wasn’t it either. I’m going to be an American Citizen. First class,” he once said.
His political passions were never far from his mind and hurt his comedy career as the US grappled with the civil rights movement. At protest marches, he was repeatedly beaten and jailed.
The Sun, referring to his anti-war protests, once wrote “the electric chair is too good for him”.
Gregory remained active on the comedy scene until recently, when he fell ill and cancelled a show on 9 August in San Jose, California, followed by an appearance on 15 August in Atlanta.
On social media, he wrote that he felt energised by the messages from his well-wishers, and said he was looking to get back on stage because he had much to say about the racial tension brought on by the gathering of white supremacist hate groups in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Last year Gregory shared his insights on the death of Prince…
In an interview with Reel Black Television, Gregory said that he believed the singer was killed.
In a 2011 interview with TV host and writer Tavis Smiley, Prince talked about chemtrails, violence in Black communities and how Dick Gregory had influenced some of his thinking. Prince said that it was Gregory who told him about chemtrails
In 2015 Gregory also had this to say regarding the deaths of Michael Jackson and Tupac Shakur