Comedian Dick Gregory Dies At 84

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Comedian and activist Dick Gregory has died at 84.

Dick died on Aug. 19 in Washington, D.C. after he was hospitalized for a little over a week due to a serious bacterial infection, according to his son Christian Gregory, MSNBC reports.

"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, D.C," wrote Christian in an Instagram post, according to Rolling Stone. "The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."

"My prognosis is excellent and I should be released within the next few days," Dick had previously said during his hospitalization, as he announced rescheduled tour dates.

Dick later reportedly suffered "a bifurcated thoracic aortic aneurysm."

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"For a lifetime, my father took all the hits," wrote Christian, "however, this hit was too much."

Dick, a groundbreaking comedian during the civil rights movement, often spoke out about prejudice. He grew up impoverished in St. Louis before gaining a track scholarship to college, and eventually caught his big break doing stand-up comedy when Hugh Hefner asked him to perform at Chicago's Playboy Club.

"Where else in the world but America could I have lived in the worst neighborhoods, attended the worst schools, rode in the back of the bus, and get paid $5,000 a week just for talking about it?" said Dick.

One story he often told involved a trip he made to a restaurant in the South during segregation.

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"We tried to integrate a restaurant, and they said: 'We don't serve colored folk here'," recalled Dick. "And I said: 'Well, I don't eat colored folk nowhere. Bring me some pork chops.' And then the Ku Klux Klan come in, and the woman say: 'We don't have no pork chops.' So I say: 'Well, bring me a whole fried chicken.'"

"And the Klan walked up to me when they put that whole fried chicken in front of me, and they said: 'Whatever you do to that chicken, boy, we're going to do to you,'" Dick continued. "So I opened its legs and kissed it in the rump and tell you all: 'Be my guest.'"

Dick, who advocated for nonviolence and vegetarianism, marched with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. during the civil rights movement and was friends with Malcolm X. He also ran for mayor in Chicago in 1967.

He wrote a number of books, including an autobiography and a book about nutrition.

"From comedy to civil rights to a life dedicated to equality, he never waned. Immeasurable generational sacrifice. A transformative blockbuster comedian who obliterated the color line," wrote Christian after his father's passing. "He quickly realized that the inequities and travesties of life were no laughing matter."

"There is no question humanity is better for it, we will allow his legendary history to stand for itself. Generations will delve into his sacrifice, comedic genius, focus and aptitude," Christian wrote. "For now, we simply want to reflect on his Service and Grace. Civil Rights, Women's Rights, children's Rights, Human Rights, Disabled Rights, Animal Rights. Dick Gregory's DNA is virtually on every movement for fairness and equality for all livings things on this planet. He was rarely one to rest and never one to stop championing for peace. Hopefully now he may find some semblance of them both."

Dick was still engaging in political activism shortly before his death. He offered comments on social media after racially charged violence broke out when white supremacists held an Aug. 12 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

"We have so much work still to be done," wrote Dick. "[T]he ugly reality on the news this weekend proves just that."

Sources: Rolling Stone, MSNBC / Featured Image: Elvert Barnes/Flickr / Embedded Photos: Elvert Barnes/Flickr (2)

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