Dick Gregory Dead at 84

8/19/2017 7:39 PM PDT

Civil Rights Activist and Comedian Dick Gregory Dead at 84

Breaking News

Dick Gregory -- comedian, actor, writer and famed civil right activist -- died Saturday night in Washington D.C. ... according to a statement from his family.

Gregory began his career as a comedian while serving in the the military in the '50s.

He broke color barriers by becoming the first black performer to perform at a white club in 1961, when Hugh Hefner eyed his talent and gave him a regular gig at the Playboy Club in Chicago. He was a hit.

Gregory's talent was laced with political rhetoric. He once said/joked, "Segregation isn't all bad. Have you ever heard of a collision where the people in the back of the bus got hurt?"

He was invited to perform on "The Tonight Show" in the days of Jack Paar, but refused unless he was able to have a seat on the couch.

Gregory became a prominent civil rights leader who was arrested a number of time during marches in the '60s. He marched in lockstep with some of the biggest civil rights leaders of the decade.

Dick was also a writer known for the documentary "Joe Louis: America's Hero... Betrayed." Comedy Central named him #82 on the all-time list of greatest stand-up comedians.

The comic and civil rights legend was recently hospitalized for a urinary tract infection, according to his son, Christian. Dick later died from heart failure, according to his rep.

He was 84.