Dick Gregory would have been the man Barack Obama is – the first African-American President of the United States of America. History recorded that he ran for the President of the United States in 1968 after he had contested to be the Mayor of Chicago the previous year but was defeated by Richard Daley. Just as Daley stopped Gregory from becoming Chicago’s Mayor, it is believed that Gregory’s participation in the 1968 presidential election made it impossible for Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic party candidate to defeat his Republican’s counterpart, Richard Nixon.
Running under the Freedom and Peace Party as a write-in candidate, Dick’s campaign prioritized on issues which dominated public discourse. These include the Vietnam War, unemployment/economic reforms and of course, the rights of African Americans. At a point during the campaign, the federal government came after Gregory due to the dollar bills printed with his image which were being circulated. While the bills didn’t land him in serious trouble, it earned him the enormous attention and exposure he needed for his campaign.
Ultimately, Gregory didn’t get close to becoming president; however, he gathered enough votes that inspired many to suggest he shattered Hubert Humphrey’s presidential ambition. Also, it is a widely held view that his run for the presidency got him named in the master list of Richard Nixon’s enemies.
Disregarding the foregoing, Dick Gregory is best known for integrating comedy with civil rights activism. The African-American comedian pioneered stand-up comedy, using it as an avenue to trigger civil right movements and confront societal ills like racism. You will easily come across Dick being described as a social critic and political activist. But beyond that, the man wrote a good number of books and portrayed different characters in a handful of films.
Most recently, he played Dan Coleman in The Leisure Seeker (2017). You will also find him as a bathroom attendant in 2002’s comedy film – The Hot Chick and as a civil right marcher in ABC Stage 67.
Dick Gregory Wiki, Is He Dead?
Often described as a stand-up comedy legend who found humour in civil right and social activism, Dick Gregory is no more. He died on the 19th day of August 2017 at the age of 84. His son, Christian Gregory announced his death on Facebook the next day. Though it is known that Gregory was once diagnosed with Lymphoma, he died of congestive heart failure. Per reports, his cancer went into remission after he rejected chemotherapy and decided to settle for a strict diet to manage the condition. It is said that the congestive heart failure which caused his death was triggered by a severe bacterial infection.
Born as Richard Claxton Gregory on October 12, 1932, in St. Louis, Missouri, Gregory grew up wondering why his dad, Presley Gregory had to abandon him and his siblings and why his mother, Lucille could only work as a housemaid to cater for the family. Poverty gave him a curious mind. It was easy for Gregory to see that so many things weren’t right with the society. This made him devote his life to addressing societal ills and the civil rights struggle.
In high school, Dick was good in running. Thus, he bagged for himself a track scholarship which handed him the chance to attend Southern Illinois University. He continued to excel at running but would later (in 1956) leave the school because he was doing less studying and more running. This was after he returned to the university when he was discharged by the United States Army; having been drafted earlier on in 1954. It was with the army that Gregory started doing stand-up comedy.
Leaving the Southern Illinois University behind, Dick decided to pursue a career in comedy. With that, he moved to Chicago where he struggled until he was hired by Hugh Hefner, the founder of Playboy to replace another comedian in Chicago Playboy Club. Eventually, he became one of the best of his kind.
Increasing fame and the much he had earned to suppress poverty handed Dick the audacity to make a more meaningful campaign against racism and all the things he felt were wrong with the society. His political activism brought him many troubles but he never backed down.
Dick Gregory’s Wife, Children, Family
Dick has a large family. At his death, he was survived by his wife, Lillian Gregory and 10 children; three sons and seven daughters. The comedian and his wife gave birth to 11 children. One of them, a son named Richard Jr. died as an infant. He was only two months old at the time of death.
It is believed that Gregory met his wife while she was working as a secretary, in a Chicago club. They grew fond of each other and decided to become life partners. As such, they got married in 1959. Though Dick wouldn’t let anyone talk to him about his family and the dangers of being an absent dad, (his career and activism kept him away from his family almost always) he severally praised Lillian for taking good care of their children and affording him all the time he needed to do his stuff.
Other Interesting Facts about Dick Gregory
We’ve gone through his early, career and personal life; we have also talked about his departure and the cause of his death. What did we miss? The following are quick facts about Dick Gregory.
- Gregory was the second child of his parent’s six children.
- He was racially attacked when he was 9 for touching a white woman’s leg. It wasn’t intentional, Dick was polishing her shoes.
- He was friends with other popular human rights activists like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr.
- Dick severely agitated against the Vietnam war, he hated it.
- He was physically abused, shot and even jailed for his activism.
- Gregory ran for Mayor of Chicago and President of the United States respectively in 1967 and 1968.
- Dick is regarded as one of the best stand-up comedians of all time and a conspiracy theorist because of a good number of the books he published.
- He founded Health Enterprises, Inc. hoping to improve the life expectancy of blacks.
- Once a heavy drinker and chain-smoker, he refused to perform in clubs where smoking and drinking were allowed.
- He has a star at St. Louis Walk of Fame