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Dick Gregory, the famed comedian who broke color barriers and civil activist, has died from a bacterial infection. He was 84.

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“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 on the comedian’s Instagram page.

“The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”

 

According to Rolling Stone, Gregory had been hospitalized in Washington, D.C. since August 9th with a urinary tract infection. However, he was optimistic about his health writing on his Instagram page,”My prognosis is excellent and I should be released within the next few days.”

He had also announced rescheduled tour dates for the end of the month.

Yet, his health took a turn as he suffered from “a bifurcated thoracic aortic aneurysm,” the family announced Sunday. “For a lifetime, my father took all the hits, however, this hit was too much,” Christian Gregory wrote.

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Born in St. Louis, Gregory broke into the scene a comedian. Rolling Stone noted that he built his career performing in front of mostly Black audiences, but got his big break in 1961 when he was asked to perform at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club in Chicago in front of white audiences. He was one of the first comedians in the U.S. to do that.

Comedian And Activist Dick Gregory

Source: Boston Globe / Getty

RS wrote: “Hefner signed Gregory to a three-week residency, then extended the contract, the New York Times reports. The residency allowed Gregory to be among the first black comedians to be embraced by white audiences, even as he held a mirror up to them for their role in racial inequality at the time. Both Richard Pryor and Bill Cosby credited Gregory with blazing their path.”

From there, Gregory’s fame grew as he appeared on numerous TV shows and recorded comedy albums, CNN wrote.

Gregory was also an avid civil rights activist having marched with Martin Luther King, Jr. at Selma.  He was good friends with Malcolm X and Medgar Evers and even ran for mayor of Chicago in 1967.

In addition, he was an author who wrote the controversial Nigger: An AutobiographyFrom the Back of the Bus and Dick Gregory’s Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin’ With Mother Nature and Defining Moments in Black History: Reading Between the Lines.

Gregory, who was a vegetarian, was also a health guru who promoted the importance of healthy eating in the Black community.

As the news of Gregory’s death hit, friends and fans flocked to Twitter to send their condolences:

Thank you Dick Gregory for everything you have done for us. Rest in power!

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