His name was Richard Claxton Gregory, born Oct. 12, 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri. But the world knew him as Dick Gregory, comedian, human rights activist, social critic and presidential candidate.
As a young man, he won an athletic scholarship as a runner, which took him to college.
But he really hit his mark as a comedian who told sidesplitting jokes about American segregation and racism. He once joined Malcolm X at his 1964 speech at the Audubon Ballroom, a meeting of the Organization of African-American Unity in New York.
Gregory did what he always did: he told jokes. One of his most famous ones came after Malcolm introduced him as a “revolutionary” and “freedom fighter”: [Gregory]: “If the FBI ever taps your phone (like they tap mine)… See, they didn’t know… [The] FBI wasn’t used to tapping no colored folk’s phone. Yeah, they come in with $10,000 worth of equipment, so they could tap my phone, and 2 days after they set all that equipment up, my phone got cut off!”
The ballroom erupted in hearty laughter. Most of his bit was about J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI.
It is chilling to note that the FBI regarded him as a “militant black nationalist”, and his file was collected under the “Black nationalist hate group” section. ¶
Gregory, fearlessly outspoken on a variety of social issues, once called the Mafia “the filthiest snakes that ever existed on this earth.”
What did the FBI do? They sent his statement to the Mafia! Truly. Imagine that.
Gregory was a friend to both Malcolm X and Martin L. King, Jr.
He sacrificed a multimillion dollar comedy career to take the front lines of the Black Freedom struggle, where he suffered arrest, police beatings, and became a target of FBI discontent.
He lived thru 84 US winters and in a 1968 presidential race, he garnered 47,712 votes.
Dick Gregory returns to his Ancestors.