“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,” Christian Gregory, the comedian’s son said in a statement posted to Instagram on Saturday.
“It was Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy, who in 1961 heard Gregory performing at a black club, and hired him for the Playboy Club in Chicago, thus beginning his breakthrough to a mainstream white audience. Previously, black comedians had played to two distinct markets: they could be as free and risqué as they liked with black audiences on the so-called chitlin’ circuit, but had been confined to supporting roles and stereotypical characters for the larger white audience.”
In 2000, when Gregory was diagnosed with lymphoma, he treated himself with diet, herbs and what he described as “devices not yet known to the public”, and announced that the cancer had gone into remission. He quipped, “I look at the obituaries every morning, and ain’t nobody listed but you eaters.”
His many books included Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lies (2017), in the title of which the word “black” was scored out.
He is survived by his wife, Lillian, whom he married in 1959, and 10 children. A son, Richard Jr, died in infancy.