Richard “Dick” Gregory (1932-2017)
Richard “Dick” Gregory was an American comedian and a social advocate. He was born in St. Louis, attending Sumner High School and then moving on with a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University. He was suddenly drafted into the US Army in 1954, where he won many talent shows for comedy and founded his passion for the art of comedy. After leaving the military, Gregory moved to Chicago in hopes of professionalizing his passion and successfully became part of a new generation of Black comedians in the late 1950s. He landed comedy show jobs, often performing in his free time and at nights in Black nightclubs. Gregory co-hosted radio shows and appeared regularly on TV programming, eventually landing his spot as $82 on Comedy Central’s list of The 100 Greatest Stand-Ups.
Once Gregory found stable popularity, he used his platform for social advocacy. He politically protested against the Vietnam War and racial injustice. He went on several hunger strikes, spoke at marches and rallies, and led local activist groups. Gregory was also an outspoken feminist and vegetarian activist. He is also famous for conducting research into the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. In 1968 he even ran for the President of the United States as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party. Gregory died of heart failure in 2017 at age 84. His legacy continues as one of the first Black comedians in the new wave of Black arts.