Richard Claxton Gregory (October 12, 1932 – August 19, 2017) was an American civil rights activist, social critic, writer, entrepreneur, comedian, and actor. Source: https://dickgregory.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=406&Itemid=791 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Gregory
Richard Claxton Gregory was born Oct. 12, 1932, in St. Louis. Raised by his single mother, Lucille, he did odd jobs to help support his family and used humor as a defense against the neighborhood bullies. Gregory was a student who excelled at running, and was aided by teachers at Sumner High School, among them Warren St. James. Gregory earned a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University Carbondale. There he set school records as a half-miler and miler. His college career was interrupted for two years in 1954 when he was drafted into the United States Army. The Army was where he got his start in comedy, entering and winning several Army talent shows at the urging of his commanding officer, who had taken notice of Gregory's penchant for joking. In 1956, Gregory briefly returned to SIU after his discharge, but dropped out because he felt that the university "didn't want me to study, they wanted me to run."
Dick Gregory entered the national comedy scene in 1961 when Chicago's Playboy Club (as a direct request from publisher Hugh Hefner) booked him as a replacement for white comedian, "Professor" Irwin Corey. Until then Gregory had worked mostly at small clubs with predominantly black audiences (he met his wife, Lillian Smith, at one such club). Such clubs paid comedians an average of five dollars per night; thus Gregory also held a day job as a postal employee. His tenure as a replacement for Corey was so successful — at one performance he won over an audience that included southern white convention goers — that the Playboy Club offered him a contract extension from several weeks to three years. By 1962 Gregory had become a nationally known headline performer, selling out nightclubs, making numerous national television appearances, and recording popular comedy albums.
Gregory met his wife Lillian Smith at an African-American club; they married in 1959. They had eleven children (including one son, Richard Jr., who died at two months): Michele, Lynne, Pamela, Paula, Stephanie (a.k.a. Xenobia), Gregory, Christian, Miss, Ayanna, and Yohance. He has been criticized for being an absent father. In a 2000 interview with The Boston Globe, Gregory was quoted as saying, "People ask me about being a father and not being there. I say, 'Jack the Ripper had a father. Hitler had a father. Don't talk to me about family.'"
He was invited to perform on The Tonight Show in 1962, but Gregory said he wouldn't go unless he was able to sit down next to host Jack Paar after his routine and be interviewed. A black performer had never done that before.
"I went in, and as I sat on the couch, talking about my children, so many people called the switchboard at NBC in New York that the circuits blew out," he said. "And thousands of letters came in and folks were saying, 'I didn't know black children and white children were the same.' "
After the Tonight Show appearance, Gregory noted that his salary jumped from $250 for seven nights of work (three shows a night) at the Playboy Club to $5,000 a night. "And the next year and a half, I made $3.9 million," he said. "That is the power."
From an early age, Gregory demonstrated a strong sense of social justice. While a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis he led a March protesting Segregated schools. Later, inspired by the work of leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and organizations such as the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), Gregory took part in the Civil Rights Movement and used his celebrity status to draw attention to such issues as segregation and disfranchisement. When local Mississippi governments stopped distributing Federal food surpluses to poor blacks in areas where SNCC was encouraging voter registration, Gregory chartered a plane to bring in several tons of food. He participated in SNCC's voter registration drives and in sit-ins to protest segregation, most notably at a restaurant franchise in downtown Atlanta, Georgia. Only later did Gregory disclose that he held stock in the chain.
Through the 1960s, Gregory spent more time on social issues and less time on performing. He participated in marches and parades to support a range of causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, world hunger, and drug abuse. In addition, Gregory fasted in protest more than 60 times, once in Iran, where he fasted and prayed in an effort to urge the Ayatollah Khomeini to release American embassy staff who had been taken hostage. The Iranian refusal to release the hostages did not decrease the depth of Gregory's commitment; he weighed only 97 lbs when he left Iran
Gregory's autobiography, Nigger, was published in 1963 prior to The assassination of President Kennedy, and became the number one best-selling book in America. Over the decades it has sold in excess of seven million copies. His choice for the title was explained in the forward, where Dick Gregory wrote a note to his mother. "Whenever you hear the word 'Nigger'," he said, "you'll know their advertising my book."
Gregory began his political career by running against Richard J. Daley for the mayoralty of Chicago in 1967. Though he did not win, this would not prove to be the end of his participation in electoral politics.
Gregory unsuccessfully ran for President of the United States in 1968 as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party, which had broken off from the Peace and Freedom Party. He garnered 47,097 votes, including one from Hunter S. Thompson, with fellow activist Mark Lane as his running mate in some states, David Frost in others, and Dr. Benjamin Spock in Virginia and Pennsylvania garnering more than the party he had left.The Freedom and Peace Party also ran other candidates, including Beulah Sanders for New York State Senate and Flora Brown for New York State Assembly. His efforts landed him on the master list of Nixon's political opponents.
After the assassinations of King, President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, Gregory became increasingly convinced of the existence of political conspiracies. Gregory wrote books such as Code Name Zorro: The Murder of Martin Luther King Jr. (1971) with Mark Lane, world famous author, attorney and documentary filmmaker, whose findings published in the best-selling 1966 book Rush To Judgment Gregory credited with reversing the nation’s opinion on who assassinated the president and the facts which contradicted the official government version contained in the Warren Report. Lane’s book contained answers and facts, which Gregory has espoused in Numerous lectures from then until now. Lane and Gregory have been best friends, co-authors and have lectured together for over 40 years and both live in Washington D.C. Gregory and Lane’s book on the assassination of Dr. King was recently released under another title, Murder In Memphis, as a trade paperback.
Gregory was an outspoken feminist, and in 1978 joined Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Bella Abzug, Margaret Heckler, Barbara Mikulski, and other suffragists to lead the National ERA March for Ratification and Extension, a march down Pennsylvania Avenue to the United States Capitol of over 100,000 on Women's Equality Day (August 26), 1978, to demonstrate for a ratification deadline extension for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the United States Constitution, and for the ratification of the ERA. The march was ultimately successful in extending the deadline to June 30, 1982, and Gregory joined other activists to the Senate for celebration and victory speeches by pro-ERA Senators, Members of Congress, and activists. The ERA narrowly failed to be ratified by the extended ratification date.
Gregory's activism continued into the 1990s. In response to published allegations that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) had supplied cocaine to predominantly African American areas in Los Angeles, thus spurring the crack epidemic, Gregory protested at CIA headquarters and was arrested. In 1992 he began a program called 'Campaign for Human Dignity' to fight crime in St. Louis neighborhoods.
In 1984 he founded Health Enterprises, Inc., a company that distributed weight loss products. In 1987 Gregory introduced the Slim-Safe Bahamian Diet, a powdered diet mix, which was immensely profitable.
in 1996 returned to the stage in his critically acclaimed one-man show, Dick Gregory Live! The reviews of Gregory's show compared him to the greatest stand-ups in the history of Broadway.
In 2001, Gregory announced to the world that he had been diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer. He refused traditional medical treatment – chemotherapy –and with the assistance of some of the finest minds in alternative medicine, put together a regimen of a variety of diet, vitamins, exercise, and modern devices not even known to the public, which ultimately resulted in his reversing the trend of the Cancer to the point where he was 100% Cancer free.
Gregory was honored recently at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., by a sold out house and a tribute hosted by Bill Cosby, with special tributes by Mrs. Martin Luther King Jr., Stevie Wonder, Isaac Hayes, Cicely Tyson, Mark Lane, Marion Barry and many more.
His most recent book, Callus On My Soul, (Longstreet Press, Atlanta, Ga.) which became a best-seller within weeks of publication, is an autobiography that updates his earlier autobiography (Nigger), because as Dick says, "I've lived long enough to need two autobiographies which is fine with me. I'm looking forward to writing the third and fourth volumes as well."
In 2014 Dick Gregory updated his original 4X formula, which was the basis for the Bahamian Diet and created his new and improved "Caribbean Diet for Optimal Health".
Dick Gregory died at a hospital in Washington, D.C. on August 19, 2017 at the age of 84.The cause was heart failure.
Gregory was honored with a Star on Walk of Fame on 02 February 2015.
Gregory announced a hunger strike on September 10, 2010, saying in a commentary published by the Centre for Research on Globalisation Web site in Montreal that he doubted the official U.S. report about the attacks on September 11, 2001. "One thing I know is that the official government story of those events, as well as what took place that day at the Pentagon, is just that, a story. This story is not the truth, but far from it. I was born on October 12, 1932. I am announcing today that I will be consuming only liquids beginning Sunday until my eightieth birthday in 2012 and until the real truth of what truly happened on that day emerges and is publicly known."