Comedian, polite rights romantic Dick Gregory dies during 84

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(Reuters) – Dick Gregory, a comedian who lambasted injustice and played a distinguished purpose in a 1960s polite rights transformation after apropos one of a initial black comics to perform for white audiences, died on Saturday during age 84, his son said.

“It is with huge unhappiness that a Gregory family confirms that their father, comedic fable and polite rights romantic Mr. Dick Gregory over this earth tonight in Washington, D.C.,” his son, Christian, wrote on Instagram.

Gregory, who lived in Washington, died of heart disaster in Sibley Memorial Hospital, where he had checked in a week ago after descending ill, pronounced his longtime publicist Steve Jaffe.

Gregory’s success as a comedian in a early 1960s helped pave a approach for other black comics, such as Richard Pryor, to benefit larger celebrity by reaching a mainstream audience.

Born in St. Louis, Gregory grew adult in poverty. He was operative for a U.S. Postal Service and behaving in front of mostly black audiences for low compensate when Playboy owner Hugh Hefner saw his act and hired a comedian to perform during his nightclub in 1961.

At a time, stand-up comedy was mostly segregated.

“When we started, a black comic couldn’t work a white nightclub,” Gregory told a Florida Times-Union. “You could sing, we could dance, though we couldn’t mount flat-footed and speak – afterwards a complement would know how shining black folks was.”

Soon after his mangle during a Playboy Club, Gregory available a series of comedy albums and seemed on radio speak shows, apropos one of a top paid black entertainers in a early 1960s.

Gregory’s stand-up comedy tackled racism, mostly with quips that took his assembly by surprise. “Segregation is not all bad,” he once joked. “Have we ever listened of a collision where a people in a behind of a train got hurt?”

If his comedy slight was during times disarming, his polite rights activism left no doubt where he stood.

Gregory was arrested several times for holding partial in demonstrations in a 1960s, befriending a late Martin Luther King Jr. as he used his celebrity to assistance pull for desegregation.

The comedian also protested a Vietnam War, took partial in craving strikes and ran for U.S. boss in 1968 as a write-in claimant for a problematic Peace and Freedom Party.

In a early 1970s, Gregory left stand-up comedy to spend some-more time on domestic activism. In a 1980s, he incited his concentration to compelling healthy eating and became a diet food entrepreneur. He returned to stand-up in a 1990s.

This month, he was in a center of a comedy debate when he became ill, Jaffe said.

Gregory still had a lot to contend about politics and competition family in a United States.

He finished his final post on Twitter on Tuesday, days after a deadly strife between white nationalists and counter-protesters elicited clearly paradoxical statements by President Donald Trump that galvanized his domestic opponents.

“I’ve so most to contend and can’t wait to get out of here to contend it,” Gregory wrote from his sanatorium bed. “We have so most work still to be done, a nauseous existence on a news this weekend proves only that.”

Gregory, in a 2011 talk with Reuters, played down a significance that an hostess alone could have in bringing about amicable change.

“People like glamour,” he said. “That’s what messes adult America.”

Additional stating by Ruthy Munoz in Houston; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Lisa Von Ahn

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