Dick Gregory, the comedian and activist and who broke racial barriers and used humor to promote social justice and nutritional health, has died at 84. Gregory died late Saturday of a severe bacterial infection in Washington, DC, son Christian Gregory told the AP. Whoopi Goldberg tweeted, "Condolences to his family and to us who won't have his insight 2 lean on R.I.P" Gregory rose from an impoverished childhood in St. Louis to win a college track scholarship and become a celebrated satirist who deftly commented upon racial divisions at the dawn of the civil rights movement. "Where else ... but America," he joked, "could I have lived in the worst neighborhoods, attended the worst schools, rode in the back of the bus, and get paid $5,000 a week just for talking about it?" Gregory's publicist of 50 years tells the Hollywood Reporter, "I just hope that God is ready for some outrageously funny times."
Gregory's sharp commentary soon led him into civil rights activism, where his ability to woo audiences through humor helped underscore fledgling efforts at integration and social equality for blacks. Gregory sought political office, running unsuccessfully for mayor of Chicago in 1966 and US president in 1968. Gregory went without solid food for weeks to draw attention to causes including Middle East peace, American hostages in Iran, animal rights, police brutality, the Equal Rights Amendment, and to support Michael Jackson when he was charged with molestation in 2004. He remained active on the comedy scene until this month. On social media, he said he was looking to get back on stage because he had a lot to say about Charlottesville. "We have so much work still to be done, the ugly reality on the news this weekend proves just that." He is survived by his wife, Lillian, and 10 children.