Legendary comedian Dick Gregory, who stood up for civil rights in the 1960s, died Saturday. He was 84. His son, Christian, announcing the news of his father's passing on Instagram. Gregory's long time publicist says he was surrounded by family when he died of heart failure at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington DC.
The comedian was in the middle of a comedy tour when he fell ill, checking into the hospital a week ago. Gregory was one of the first black comics to perform for wide audiences at a time when standup comedy was largely segregated. He got his big break when Playboy founder, Hugh Hefner, saw Gregory's act and hired him to perform at his nightclub, in 1961.
Gregory tackled racism in his routines and stood up for social justice. He was arrested several times for taking part in civil rights demonstrations as he used his fame to help push for desegregation. His success as a comedian, in the 1960s, helped pave the way for other black comics, such as Richard Prior, to gain greater fame by reaching a main stream audience.