Comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory died Sunday in Washington, D.C., his family confirmed on his social media accounts. He was 84.
"The family appreciates the outpouring of support and love and respectfully asks for their privacy as they grieve during this very difficult time," read the post from Christian Gregory.
Gregory became the first black stand-up comic to break the color barrier in major nightclubs in the early 1960s and used his position to fight social injustices. He once spent five days in jail in Birmingham, Ala., after joining protestors at the request of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and was frequently arrested for his activities in the ’60s.
Civil rights activist the Rev. Jesse Jackson was among those paying tribute to Gregory on Twitter.
Gregory's son, Christian, told The Associated Press his father died late Saturday in Washington, D.C. after being hospitalized for about a week. He had suffered a severe bacterial infection.
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.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.
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