Richard Claxton “Dick” Gregory is best known for being “the #godfather of comedy”, who changed the way White Americans viewed #Black comedians. He has also been a devoted civil rights activist. Gregory was born on October 12, 1932 in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up poor but excelled in school at running, many of his teachers in high school helped him, and he received a track scholarship to Southern Illinois University Carbondale.
Like many young Black men during the early 1950s Gregory’s education was put on hold because he was drafted into the U.S. Army. However, the army would later bring new opportunities for Gregory, because it was there were he got his start in comedy. He would often enter talent contests, and win most of them. After the army, Gregory returned to college, but soon left because he felt that the school only wanted him for his running abilities, and were not dedicated to his learning.
Gregory later moved to Chicago, where he began his comedian career, and taking part in a new generation of Black comedians that were just coming into the public eye. His material often related to racial issues and current events. Gregory attributes the launch of his career to Hugh Hefner, who watched him perform at Herman Roberts Show Bar. Based on that performance, Hefner hired Gregory to work at the Chicago Playboy Club as a replacement for comedian Professor Irwin Corey.
However, not all Gregory’s life has been just involved to making people laugh. He has also been very active in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1963, Gregory arrived in Selma, Alabama and spoke for two hours on a public platform just days before the voter registration known as “Freedom Day. He was also very active against the fight against economic reform, Vietnam War, and anti-drug issues. Gregory also has had a political career. He ran against Richard J. Daley for mayor in 1967 in Chicago.
Gregory also founded the company Health Enterprises, Inc. in 1984. The company distributed weight loss products. Gregory’s efforts were to improve the life-expectancy of African-Americans. He launched the weight-loss powder at the Whole Life Expo in Boston under the slogan “It’s cool to be healthy”.
On February 2, 2015 Gregory received Hollywood immortality, his star was etched into the Hollywood Walk of Fame.