Activist and comedian Dick Gregory died Saturday, his family announced, reportedly following a bacterial infection. He was 84.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Gregory became popular with black and white audiences alike in the 1960s even while offering sharp racial commentary and forthright advocacy of equality. He was an active participant in the Civil Rights movement, joining the 1963 March on Washington and integration protests in the deep South. Gregory reminisced of one such effort in 2003 with characteristic humor:
"We tried to integrate a restaurant, and they said, 'We don't serve colored folk here,' and I said, 'Well, I don't eat colored folk nowhere. Bring me some pork chops.' And then Ku Klux Klan come in, and the woman say, 'We don't have no pork chops,' so I say, 'Well, bring me a whole fried chicken.' And then the Klan walked up to me when they put that whole fried chicken in front of me, and they say, 'Whatever you do to that chicken, boy, we're going to do to you.' So I opened up its legs and kissed it in the rump and tell you all, 'Be my guest.'" [Dick Gregory, via NPR]
Gregory was also outspoken about other political issues, including the Vietnam War, police brutality, sexism, and animal rights, often using hunger strikes as a tool of activism. He is survived by his wife of half a century, Lillian, and 10 children.