Born Richard Claxton Gregory on October 12, 1932 in St. Louis, he transitioned today at the age of 84. There is no list that can pay due honor to his accomplishments and inspirations.
As a teenager, Dick Gregory earned a track scholarship to attend Southern Illinois University in Carbondale but his education was cut short when he was drafted in the U.S. Army in 1954. His commanding officer noticed that Dick had a knack for joking, and Dick entered and won several military talent shows. In 1956 after his discharge, Dick returned to the University but then dropped out saying that the university “didn’t want me to study, they wanted me to run.”
As a young man, Dick moved to Chicago and became part of a new generation of Black comedians along with Nipsey Russel. They broke with stereotypical Black entertainers by drawing on current events, including racial issues. As Dick Gregory said once, “Segregation is not all bad. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?”
Even with his talent, Dick Gregory did not give up his day job. He worked for the U.S. Postal Service. He attributed the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner. Hefner saw Dick perform where he told the following;
Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night.
Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”
Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”
Hefner hired Dick Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club to replace “Professor” Irwin Corey. Read the rest of this entry