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Dick Gregory: Funeral Update

Dick Gregory's Funeral

Celebrated comedian and human rights activist Dick Gregory, 84, died Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C.

Gregory, who is survived by his wife, Lillian, and 10 children, will be laid to rest in less than two weeks.

Dick Gregory's Funeral
Friends of Dick Gregory’s family shared this update on Monday, Sept. 4, 2017.

Here’s the proposed home-going schedule that will celebrate Gregory’s life and honor his contributions to civil rights, according to the Chicago Crusader:

-Thursday, Sept. 14, a limited, private viewing of Gregory will be held on the Howard University campus in Washington, D.C. The time of the event has not been determined.

-Friday, Sept. 15, Gregory will lie in repose at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial that sits on the Tidal Basin just off the National Mall from 8 p.m. to midnight. Surviving members of King’s family and Gregory’s family will lead a wreath-laying ceremony. During his lifetime, Gregory was a close friend of the slain Civil Rights leader.

-Saturday, Sept. 16, a New Orleans-style funeral march will head down the U Street Corridor/Black Broadway. (Event on flyer to left was added by Gregory’s family on Sept. 4th)

-Gregory’s funeral will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 17 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts Concert Hall in the

nation’s capital. After the funeral, a reception will follow at 5:30 p.m. on the rooftop terrace.

Gregory began his career as a comedian while serving in the military in the mid 1950s. He served in the army for a year and a half at Fort Hood in Texas, Fort Lee in Virginia, and Fort Smith in Arkansas. He was drafted in 1954 while attending Southern Illinois University Carbondale. After being discharged in 1956 he returned to the university but did not receive a degree. With a desire to perform comedy professionally, he moved to Chicago.

In 1958, Gregory opened a nightclub called the Apex Club in Illinois. The club failed, landing Gregory in financial hardship. In 1959, Gregory landed a job as master of ceremonies at the Roberts Show Club.

Gregory performed as a comedian in small, primarily black-patronized nightclubs, while working for the United States Postal Service during the daytime. He was one of the first black comedians to gain widespread acclaim performing for white audiences. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Gregory describes the history of black comics as limited: “Blacks could sing and dance in the white night clubs but weren’t allowed to stand flat-footed and talk to white folks, which is what a comic does.”

In 1961, while working at the black-owned Roberts Show Bar in Chicago, he was spotted by Hugh Hefner performing the following material before a largely white audience:

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I understand there are a good many Southerners in the room tonight. I know the South very well. I spent twenty years there one night. 

Last time I was down South I walked into this restaurant and this white waitress came up to me and said, “We don’t serve colored people here.” I said, “That’s all right. I don’t eat colored people. Bring me a whole fried chicken.”

Then these three white boys came up to me and said, “Boy, we’re giving you fair warning. Anything you do to that chicken, we’re gonna do to you.” So I put down my knife and fork, I picked up that chicken and I kissed it. Then I said, “Line up, boys!”

Gregory attributed 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.

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Dick Gregory's Funeral
Dick Gregory, Ayanna Gregory at the “Selma” & Legends Who Paved the Way Gala at the Bacara Resort & Spa on December 6, 2014 in Goleta, CA (Photo Credit: Kathy Hutchins)
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Phyllis Coley
Phyllis D. Coley is CEO/Publisher of Spectacular Magazine and Host of Spectacular Magazine Radio Show. With a B.A. in English from NCCU, the Durham native began her professional career as Promotions/Marketing Director for New York City’s WKTU-FM. While at the radio station, Coley discovered the rap group Kid ‘n Play and managed them for five years, guiding their music and movie careers to success. Moving back to Durham, Coley produced a nationally syndicated television show, The Electric Factory, while working as News Director for FOXY 107/104. In April 2002, recognizing a void in highlighting the achievements of African Americans, she started her own business publishing ACE Magazine. Coley launched Spectacular Magazine in November 2004. Recognizing the lack of pertinent and truthful information, Coley began Spectacular Magazine Radio Show in March 2009. Coley is the organizer of Durham's Annual MLK/Black History Month Parade and the Annual North Carolina Juneteenth Celebration. She currently serves on Central Children’s Home Board of Directors, Raleigh Chamber of Commerce’s Board of Advisors, as Immediate Past Secretary of the Durham Rotary Club Board of Directors and is one of the founding members of the Triangle United Way’s African American Leadership Initiative.

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