SIU Carbondale alumnus Dick Gregory

SIU Carbondale alumnus, social activist, author and comedian Dick Gregory on the McAndrew Stadium track in 2001. Faye Williams, the author of a book chronicling her more than 30-year friendship with Gregory, will share her reflections on June 18 at SIU. (University Communications and Marketing photo)

June 10, 2021

Discussion on SIU alumnus, social activist Dick Gregory is June 18

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Author and radio talk show host E. Faye Williams will share her personal reflections of Southern Illinois University Carbondale alumnus, comedian, author and activist Richard “Dick” Gregory during a June 18 program at Morris Library.

Williams is the author of “Dick Gregory: Wake Up and Stay Woke: Running for Life.” The program in the library’s John C. Guyon Auditorium is from 3 to 4:30 p.m. and will include a book sales and signing in the library rotunda. A Q&A by community member Pepper Holder begins at 3:30 p.m.

The event is free and open to the public and will comply with current Restore Illinois guidelines. Masks will be required for any individual who is not fully vaccinated and who is over 2 years old and able to medically tolerate a face covering.

Book details a long friendship

Published in May 2021, Williams’ book details a friendship that began in 1986 when the two met while Williams was running for a congressional seat from Louisiana. She notes that Gregory’s “life experiences spanning over eight decades remain relevant to today’s events.” And while Gregory’s activism, political humor and work toward justice are well known, Williams will bring her insight and share Gregory’s “unique and appealing attributes less known.”

“In all that he did, his wish was to always make people around him loveable and happy and to make America live up to her promise for all of us,” Williams wrote.

Library Dean John Pollitz said he read Gregory’s autobiography in high school before enrolling at SIU and heard him speak on campus in 1973. Both were “eye opening and powerful,” he said.

Pollitz said he is thrilled that Williams is including SIU Carbondale in her national book promotion tour. The library’s Special Collections Research Center provided many photos of Gregory during his time on campus for the book, including the picture of Dick Gregory in his SIU track uniform.

Gained national attention at SIU

While at SIU, Gregory, a native of St. Louis, 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 was credited with making great strides toward integration in Carbondale. 

After leaving SIU, Gregory participated in the 1960s civil rights movement and had personal relationships with prominent individuals, including Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Muhammed Ali, President John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy.

Gregory returned to campus many times. He received an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from SIU in 1987 and was an SIU Distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2009. He was a lifetime member of the SIU Alumni Association.

Williams is the national president and CEO of the nonprofit National Congress of Black Women Inc. She has appeared on network and cable television news programs and hosts a weekly half-hour program “Wake Up and Stay Woke” on WPFW-FM in Washington, D.C.

For information about the event, contact Morris Library at 618-453-2522 or email