Indiana State University Newsroom

Dick Gregory to speak at Indiana State Nov. 7

October 27, 2014

Comedian, activist and health enthusiast Dick Gregory will speak at Indiana State University on Nov. 7.

Gregory, 82, is visiting as part of the biennial reunion of The Incorporated Gathering, an alumni group of African-Americans who graduated in 1975 and before. He is set to speak at 3:15 p.m. in Tilson Auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.

This appearance is actually the second for the Civil Rights legend; he previously spoke at Indiana State's campus in 1972.

Gregory, a native of St. Louis, began performing in the mid-1950s while serving in the U.S. Army. He entered the national comedy scene in 1961 when Chicago's Playboy Club booked him at the request of publisher Hugh Hefner, according to his website.

In less than a year, Gregory, who had been working as a postal employee, was already a nationally known headliner, selling out nightclubs, making television appearances and recording comedy albums.

"He's this generation's Bill Cosby," said Christopher Olsen, professor and chair of the history department at Indiana State University.

Gregory was also involved in the Civil Rights movement, demonstrating a strong sense of social justice from an early age. While a student at Sumner High School in St. Louis, he led a march protesting segregated schools. He later was inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and joined his efforts.

Through the 1960s, Gregory spent more time on social issues and less time on performing. He participated in marches and parades to support a range of causes, including opposition to the Vietnam War, world hunger and drug abuse. Gregory was known for his fasting -- more than 60 times -- to protest injustices.

In 2001, Gregory announced he had been diagnosed with cancer. He refused traditional medical treatment in the form of chemotherapy, instead relying on alternative medicine. Gregory credits a regimen including a healthy diet, vitamins and exercise for a cure.

He and his wife, Lillian Smith, have 10 children, and he has written two autobiographies.

"I've lived long enough to need two autobiographies, which is fine with me. I'm looking forward to writing the third and fourth volumes, as well," he said.

The event is sponsored by The Incorporated Gathering, the Center for Public Service and Community Engagement, College of Arts and Sciences, Office of Diversity, departments of history, political science and psychology and the African-American Alumni Council.


Photo: -- Dick Gregory (courtesy of

Contact: Christopher Olsen, professor and chair, department of history, Indiana State University, 812-237-2710 or

Media Contact: Libby Roerig, media relations assistant director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or