August 20, 2017

SIU Carbondale alumnus Richard ‘Dick’ Gregory dies at 84

CARBONDALE, Ill. Richard “Dick” Gregory, who died Aug. 19 at age 84, was an alumnus of Southern Illinois University Carbondale who attended in the 1950s. 

Before he embarked on a career dedicated to human rights, the St. Louis native came to Carbondale on a track scholarship. He chose SIU from among 100 universities that made scholarship offers. At SIU, he was a nationally recognized athlete, and one of the fastest milers and half-milers in the country. He captained both the cross country and track teams and in 1953 became the first black student-athlete named outstanding athlete of the year. He has also been credited with making great strides toward integration in Carbondale. 

After leaving the university, Gregory went on to become an author, activist, philosopher, comedian, actor, recording artist, nutritionist and anti-drug crusader. His participation in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s is well documented, as are his personal relationships with such luminaries as Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, President John F. Kennedy, and Robert Kennedy, as well as legions of politicians, performers and activists. 

Gregory was a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association and returned to campus multiple times. The university honored him as a distinguished alumnus in 2009.