East St. Louis mayor, group awards proclamation to civil rights activist Dick Gregory

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. - Dick Gregory – a civil rights activist and comedian, among other prominent roles – started his race to equality at an early age as a track athlete for Sumner High school.

“His connection with East St. Louis started years ago in the late 40s and early 50s when he was a track runner,” his brother Ron Gregory said.

Gregory ended up being one of the first black athletes to compete against his white counterparts at state competitions – unheard-of at that time.

“He and his family paid a heck of a sacrifice because of what he was doing,” his brother said.

These photos show the young activist and Alpha Phi Alpha brother as he gained notoriety in his hometown of St. Louis and the entire U.S.

Though he challenged the status quo everywhere, his focus remained at home, when in 1992 he joined with Katherine Dunham in East St. Louis on her 40-day hunger strike to protest the treatment of Haitian refugees at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay.

East St. Louis Mayor Emeka Jackson-Hicks and New Millennium Group presented Gregory’s family with a proclamation to recognize his selfless dedication for equality.

“He was a great activist and for East St. Louis that means a lot,” Jackson-Hicks said. “These are legends in our community these are people that I grew up watching and observing. Them carrying a positive cause in the city, so I’m just excited to be a part of that and sit at the feet and learn.”

“We’re going to make sure Dick’s wife gets it to her see the tributes to the worlds fallen leader continues on,” Ron Gregory said.