Dick Gregory, the pioneering standup comedian and political activist, has died at the age of 84.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Gregory was hospitalized earlier this week. The cause of death was believed to be complications from heart disease.
The St. Louis native launched his comedy career whilst serving in the military in the 1950s, becoming one of the earliest black standups to perform for a white audience. In the proceeding years, he achieved national recognition with appearances at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Club and on late-night television. He was ranked No. 82 on Comedy Central’s list of the 100 Greatest Stand-ups of all time.
Gregory was also a noted social and political activist who marched alongside the likes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In 1967, he launched an unsuccessful bid for mayor of Chicago. The following year, he ran for United States president as a write-in candidate of the Freedom and Peace Party. He was an outspoken supporter of the feminist movement in the 1970s, and during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1980, he traveled to Tehran to attempt to negotiate the hostages’ release and engaged in a public hunger strike. Later in his life, he became an advocate for healthy eating.
“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.,” his son, Christian Gregory announced in a statement. “The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time.”