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Dick Gregory (1932 - 2017)

Getty / WireImage / Jim Spellman

Dick Gregory (1932 - 2017)

Dick Gregory, the legendary stand-up comedian and civil rights activist, died Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C., according to multiple news sources. He was 84.

“It is with enormous sadness that the Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic legend and civil rights activist Mr. Dick Gregory departed this earth tonight in Washington, DC,” Gregory’s son Christian, wrote in a statement posted on Instagram.

Gregory appeared on several TV talk shows during the 1960s and ‘70s, beginning with an appearance on the “Tonight Starring Jack Paar” in 1962. He agreed to appear only if Paar agreed to interview him after his stand-up set.

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Born Oct. 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Gregory began his comedy career appearing in African-American clubs. Playboy magazine founder and publisher Hugh M. Hefner caught one of these shows and, noting the crowd’s enthusiastic response and Gregory’s clever material, booked him to appear at the Playboy Club in Chicago. Gregory was a hit at the club and soon found himself regularly performing for white nightclub audiences at a time when few African-American comics were doing so.

Always socially conscious, Gregory applied his fame as a civil rights activist. He spoke at Selma, Alabama, in 1963 and became involved in protests against the Vietnam War.

He was also an advocate for nutrition and a health-conscious lifestyle. This eventually led him to quit performing in nightclubs in 1973 because they allowed smoking and drinking. He founded Health Enterprises, a company that marketed the Slim/Safe Bahamian Diet Mix line of weight-loss products.

Gregory is survived by his wife, Lillian, and 10 children.

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