Comedian Dick Gregory, who hit racism head on through his sharp and satirical style of comedy, and was equally well-known for his civil rights activism, has died. He was 84. Gregory’s family confirmed his death with a post on Instagram.

“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.,” his son Christian Gregory wrote.

Born and raised in St. Louis in 1932, the former Southern Illinois University track star would become known as a comedian, author, lecturer, activist, who marched and used his voice to raise awareness on racism, police brutality, to world famine.

Gregory rose to fame in the 1960s and 70s as a comedian and social satirist unafraid to tackle race relations issue in his act. He’s widely known as the first black comic to perform in front of white audiences and scored what would become his big break in 1961 when Hugh Hefner hired him to work at the Chicago Playboy Club.

His son left a touching tribute to his father on Instagram:

“I was probably 25-years-old before I realized my father called many people champ. I was clearly paying attention yet I never heard it other than when he was calling me. One of his finest gifts was the ability to make you sit up and pay attention.”

I was probably 25-years-old before I realized my father called many people champ. I was clearly paying attention yet I never heard it other than when he was calling me. One of his finest gifts was the ability to make you sit up and pay attention. For a week, I watched my father cause some of the sharpest medical minds to sit up and pay attention. What began a little over a week ago as a simple Urinary Tract Infection wrecked havoc on my father’s slim frame. Events were set in motion that ultimately proved to be too much. A bifurcated thoracic aortic aneurysm ultimately was too big a blow. For a lifetime, my father took all the hits, however, this hit was too much. A life heavily sacrificed had ultimately taken its toll. Years of severe fasting, not for health but for social change, had damaged his vasculature system long ago. He always reminded us, many of his fasts were not about his personal health but an attempt to heal the world. A routine few days in the hospital suddenly turned dire. My father transitioned encircled by his family in love. It was actually purifying and a blessing to bear witness to unbridled familial love and peaceful understanding. For a week, my family stood 24 hour vigil over our father, even when it appeared routine. Way too much laughter for a hospital room I am certain. From comedy to civil rights to a life dedicated to equality, he never waned. Immeasurable generational sacrifice. A transformative block buster comedian who obliterated the color line. 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. 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. (Cont.)

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