Dick Gregory, legendary comic and civil rights activist, dies at 84

LOS ANGELES - Comic trailblazer and civil rights activist Dick Gregory died on Saturday night at age 84.

Son Christian Gregory confirmed the news of the passing on his father's Instagram account.

"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," the post reads. "The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time."

His publicist of 50 years Steve Jaffe says that Gregory was surrounded by members of his family, including his wife of 58 years, Lillian, when he died Saturday in Washington's Sibley Memorial Hospital. Gregory was admitted a week ago for symptoms of heart failure, interrupting an East Coast comedy tour.

"He worked 300 dates a year, and was still going strong right up to the end," says Jaffe.

Gregory appeared to be recovering and on Tuesday tweeted apologies for missing an Atlanta show, promising an "excellent" prognosis and to be back on the road again "in a few weeks."

While comics such as Bill Cosby gave praise on Twitter ("He was FEARLESS," wrote Cosby), the Rev. Jesse Jackson weighed in on Gregory's social importance.

"He taught us how to laugh. He taught us how to fight. He taught us how to live," Jackson tweeted. "Dick Gregory was committed to justice. I miss him already."

Gregory was one of the first black comedians to find mainstream success with white audiences in the early 1960s. He rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to become a celebrated satirist who deftly commented upon racial divisions at the dawn of the civil rights movement.

He also ran for president in 1968 as the Peace and Freedom party candidate.

Contributing: Associated Press

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