Why 'conformist' America badly needed Dick Gregory's comedy and activism

To the editor: Dick Gregory embodied the rebellious spirit of the 1960s. He kept that spirit alive long after so many of us had returned to the boring life of middle America during the Reagan and Bush years. (“Dick Gregory, who rose from poverty to become a groundbreaking comedian and civil rights activist, dies at 84,” obituary, Aug. 19)

And it is the conformist life of middle America that had helped to give rise to the antiwar and civil rights movements to which Gregory so courageously, intelligently and humorously spoke.

I was fortunate enough to have heard Gregory speak at several special events in the 1970s. His words were strong, mostly critical of the status quo, and always delivered with an uncompromising and penetrating authority. His adamant and unending opposition to the Vietnam War, his key role behind Martin Luther King Jr. in the civil rights movement and his responsible embrace of vegetarianism and other healthful lifestyle changes were always rooted in his obvious and deep love and concern for humanity.

No other social rebel could express this concern with such clever logic and both dead seriousness and irreverent humor as Gregory. This country badly needed him, and we were lucky to have had him for so long.

Ramakumar Jones, Fairfax, Calif.

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