Dick Gregory’s Uncanny Foresight

by Shawn Hamilton

Also see Interview with Joe Holsinger, Chief of Staff to slain US Congressman Leo Ryan

Dick Gregory

“There’s a whole lot of people who could stand up here and be honest with you today, but they won’t because they understand your reaction. But God’s blessed me well. I ain’t never cared what ya’ll think about me. And I’ve been knowin’ for a long time that truth ain’t never had to be validated by your ignorance.”     Dick Gregory, Compton College, 1981

One of the pivotal events related to my political deflowering occurred when I was 20 years old. I heard comedian-activist Dick Gregory speaking at California’s Compton College on March 26, 1981, and at one point during his talk, he unambiguously and clearly stated that then-president Ronald Reagan would soon be shot and possibly assassinated. He said it with a calm confidence that impressed me at the time, and I marveled that he would venture such a bold statement publicly.

I was even more impressed — startled and a bit stunned, really — when four days later Reagan was shot, just as Gregory had predicted.

Later we learned the shooter’s brother had recently made plans to dine with Neil Bush, son of then US vice-president, George H.W. Bush, who in 1976 had been installed as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).

In hindsight, it appears that Dick Gregory tried to make the public aware of a stratum of political power and social control that generally remains unknown to the public and functions outside the realm of our quaint “democratic” institutions. He was describing what some are now calling the “deep state” although that term is relatively recent and its definition contentious and unreliable. 

At the time, Gregory simply referred to members of this loosely knit group of ridiculously wealthy people as the “Superpimps”. He was suggesting that while the term “pimps” most commonly refers to sex trade hustlers in lower-rent districts, super rich white exploiters exhibit exactly the same behavior and should be thus credited. 

While the general population remains unaware of this plutocracy, Gregory informs us that President Richard Nixon knew of its existence, having learned about it “the hard way”, and that Reagan, to his detriment, was about to find out. Gregory said:

“Dick Nixon found out the hard way. Ronald Reagan gonna find out the hard way! It ain’t never been about Ronald Reagan, baby; that was a manipulation. It ain’t about Ronald Reagan. It’s about George Bush. It’s about puttin’ the CIA in the White House. That’s what it’s about.

“And if Ronald Reagan would have died three days before that election they’d have stuffed him and ran him anyway! And the only reason they got by with it is because of your ignorance. There’s whole lots of people who could stand up here and be honest with you today, but they won’t because they understand your reaction. But God’s blessed me well. I ain’t never cared ‘bout what ya’ll think about me. And I’ve been knowin’ for a long time that truth ain’t never had to be validated by your ignorance.”

In producing this article, I have tried to accurately reproduce Gregory’s voice and words — as he spoke them and as one hears him speaking in the original recording. I transcribed and edited it for accuracy rather than social delicacy, so I trust that readers will consider the context and allow themselves not to feel offended.

While Gregory’s style of speaking to the Compton College audience does not conform to conventional rules of standard English, I note that I also heard him speak at the Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, where he employed “the Queen’s English”. Gregory understood basic principles of classical Rhetoric and tailored his delivery to whatever particular audience he was addressing to maximize effectiveness. That was an aspect of his oratorical brilliance! He was a wonderful speaker, and I think readers will appreciate hearing the audio of Gregory’s 1981 Compton College speech that will follow this article.

One reason I felt attracted to Gregory, I suspect, was my sensitivity to fascist influence in the United States. My father was a US Air Corp pilot during World War 2 who spent time imprisoned at Stalag 7A after his airplane was shot down in Germany. Ralph’s influence resulted in my appreciating and supporting Gregory’s insistence that fascism be recognized and countered wherever it exists! Gregory warns us:

“It looks like somewhere that funny history ain’t too far back. That’s how them Germans got in trouble and let Hitler and them Nazis slip up on ‘em…  

“I can look back now at all this mess that’s gone down, down through the years, and see this thing that’s rollin’ in on ya’, and wonder how come you can’t see it.”

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This “thing that’s rollin’ in on ya'”, Gregory implied none too subtly, is essentially a totalitarian takeover of the United States (and perhaps the world). He issues this warning several times throughout his talk, reminding us of a set of suspicious circumstances that occurred a few weeks before his Compton College appearance.

“How many of you all in this room already know that three weeks ago on Sunday, they shot at Ronald Reagan coming out of church? How many of ya’ll know that? And not one newspaper reported it across this country — only television — and they said a Secret Service agent[’s] rifle accidently went off in the case, and any old fool know you don’t put no rifle in no case unless you break it down and take the ammunition out. And it just happened to go off while Ronnie was coming out of church. And old Ronald might not be as dumb as we think he is. I think he knows Bush is after him. That’s why he sent Bush to Atlanta. He said, ‘Go to Atlanta and try to look like a little black boy.’

“I think he knows Bush is after him” is rather unambiguous, don’t you think? He’s declaring that George Bush constituted a mortal threat to Ronald Reagan. This didn’t seem too surprising when I first heard it, but four days later when Reagan was shot, it suddenly assumed ominous significance.

Gregory’s mention of “Atlanta” refers to a situation in which nearly 20 young black people had gone missing in Georgia. He concluded that these disappearances, which took place in the same city where the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention institution is located, were linked to research pertaining to clandestine development of a cancer-suppressing substance called “Interferon”, a drug portrayed as effectively interfering with the proliferation of cancer cells. While this prospect may sound preposterous when one first hears it, the associated facts and verifiable details render his conclusion plausible even if unpalatable.

Similarly, Gregory had warned the country after the November 18, 1978, Jonestown massacre in Guyana that if intelligence operations could be allowed to develop and proceed unchallenged in a foreign country, the next likely step would be such events transpiring on US soil. That “Jonestown” constituted such an operation seems clear from the evidence.

You might recall that a delegation from San Francisco had accompanied California Congressman Leo Ryan to Guyana to investigate the numerous complaints his office had received from concerned family members. Subsequently, when Ryan, his aides, and several terrified residents tried to leave the compound, they were ambushed at the Port Kaituma airstrip by some of Jones’ followers, including a suspicious character loyal to Jones named Larry Layton. Congressman Ryan and four others in his entourage were killed in the ambush. Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who in 1978 was serving as Ryan’s legislative aide and had accompanied him to Jonestown, was shot five times during that incident but survived against the odds.

In Chapter 4 of her 2018 book, Undaunted: Surviving Jonestown, Summoning Courage, and Fighting Back, Speier says, “After the 1975 election, Mayor Moscone appointed Jones chairman of the San Francisco Housing Authority Commission, even as questions had started swirling about where, or from whom, Jones was getting his money.”

As it turned out, the source of this money may have been the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). I did not first hear about these allegations from Dick Gregory but from John Stockwell — commander of the CIA’s Angolan Task Force in 1975-76. While presenting information to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence for the United States Senate (Ninty-sixth Congress), Stockwell reluctantly conceded that the CIA had funded covert domestic recruitment efforts of Americans to fight in Angola, and he is a likely source for some of Gregory’s assertions.

Concordant ideas were expressed by Joe Holsinger, Congressman Ryan’s Chief of Staff at the time of the murders, who summarized and explained the outlines of the case in an interview: (transcript reflects audio)

“… I had appeared on a public television several months ago, with a group of Black professionals, mostly psychologists and doctors. They invited me to appear today, to provide information that they thought… I might be able to help with the forum today, with their research. I appeared in Washington in February before the International Relations Committee and they made some statements, some charges, and documentation, which resulted in the Foreign Relations — Foreign Affairs Committee, or International Relations Committee whichever they call it today — they voted to ask the House Select Committee on Intelligence to investigate my charges. They are currently investigating those charges by the House Select Committee on Intelligence. 
 
Interviewer: Can you tell us what the charges are? 
 
Joe Holsinger: The charges basically amounted to CIA contact with both the Burnham government there and with the People’s Temple. That originally, it was my belief at the time I went to Washington that the purpose of our involvement there was to support the government of Burnham for commercial reasons and they use the People’s Temple almost as enforcers to help support an unpopular government there, to keep control of the government of Guyana.

(continued)

In this same talk Gregory asserts that the murder of San Francisco’s Mayor George Moscone (along with Supervisor Harvey Milk) on November 27, 1978, involved a cover-up intended to squelch investigations. Had the mayor not been silenced, he would have had to explain to a grand jury why so many Bay Area foster children were being sent to Jonestown.

When I began to write this article, I had forgotten that the murders of Moscone and Milk in San Francisco had happened so shortly after the Jonestown tragedy. The fact that those two events coincided so closely does not decrease the credibility of Gregory’s claims. 

Moscone and Milk had been gunned down by a former San Francisco cop and city supervisor named Dan White, who in court had been defended with the now famous “Twinkie Defense”, which suggested that ingestion of sugar had caused him to go momentarily crazy. It was a ridiculous defense, yet, in fairness, the media had blown that aspect of the trial out of proportion. There were other factors that influenced the jury’s decision to convict Dan White of manslaughter rather than murder.

During Gregory’s Compton College talk, he repeatedly warns the audience, and by extension the larger public, of what amounts to an impending takeover of our democratic society by wealthy, powerful, and potentially sinister forces. He makes fun of how clueless citizens remain oblivious to such prospects:

“I cannot believe. See I’m born in an all black, segregated community, and I really thought you white folks in America had your act together. I thought ya’ll was takin’ care of business. I used to pray every night, ‘Oh Lord, let me be like white folks when I grow up!’ And one day we force this country to integrate and I get over here with you white folks and find out you white folks is crazier than niggers — and the bad part about it is you don’t even know it — walkin’ around thinkin’ you cute and thinkin’ you safe, and they fixin’ to blow you away. The one big thing between white folks and black folks in America — we know what they’ll do to us; when they do it to ya’ll, ya’ll be surprised. Then you wants to sue!”

Later in the talk he says, “But don’t none of ya’ll want to deal with reality because you’re all hooked into that other thing; well you’re fixin’ to lose all that mess. The country’s broke; the country ain’t got no money! That old jelly bean-eating pimp [Reagan] keeps trying to tell ya’ll but don’t nobody hear.”

And later, “They don’t need you! They got the little robot — that’ll do anything you can do and won’t talk back. They got a little robot in the automobile industry that do the welding. It can do more welding in four seconds than a human can do in seven hours! I mean, how can the dude — the chump — be getting ready to replace you, and you don’t even see it?”

It’s been nearly 40 years since Dick Gregory delivered this talk, and I find his bold prognostications have proven more accurate than erroneous.

Not only did Gregory accurately predict the Reagan shooting, I believe he also warned about the event now referred to as “9-11”.

I address this point in an interview I gave to a No Lies Radio in January of 2014. The interview begins 15 minutes in, and at 19 minutes the host, Andy Steele, asks me about my personal experience. I said:

“I was teaching…and I was watching the news before school on September 11th, and I saw the second plane hit the Trade Tower…and, I had listened to Dick Gregory for years — you know, the activist and comedian — and I immediately recalled something I’d heard him say in reference to the plutocrats who run the country. He had said, ‘They’re planning a big ole surprise party for ya’ll.’ So when I saw the plane hit, that was the first thing I thought, ‘This is the surprise party!’ And my opinion hasn’t changed.

“A friend of mine was staying with me named Dan Roggenkamp — we were teachers together in Taiwan — and he was working at this school in Sacramento that I was at — he was staying with me — and I asked for his recollection of what was said when we saw the second plane hit, and this is his exact quote. He said: ‘The main thing I remember was that you immediately said something like, “Well, there go all of our rights!” I remember being impressed at the time that you could make such an observation so quickly. You really did say that, don’t you remember?’

“I didn’t remember, but I’m glad he reminded me of it. In any case, losing our rights was exactly what happened, no matter who was behind the attacks.”

Conclusion

I remember seeing Dick Gregory maligned and misrepresented in various media including late night TV. I recall one Saturday Night Live (SNL) episode that portrayed him as a buffoon who just made things up and saw phantasms in clouds. The skit satirized the 1975 appearance of Dick Gregory and JFK assassination researcher Bob Groden on Geraldo Rivera’s TV show, Goodnight America, which premiered the first public viewing of the infamous “Zapruder Film” that clearly shows Kennedy’s head being thrown back as if he’d been shot from the front. I recall the Gregory character in the SNL skit saying, “As you can clearly see…,” and then an absurdly muddled photo of nothing discernable was displayed, suggesting that Gregory was fundamentally irrational, which he was not! Anyone viewing the JFK motorcade sequence could easily see the problem it posed for the Warren Commission’s official explanation!

These cheezy comedic efforts failed as humor at the time, but they helped to cultivate a false public perception that information provided by Dick Gregory is untrustworthy. Apparently, discrediting him was an important goal for certain malevolent forces wielding sufficient media influence to defame him. This has left me with a profound distaste for the type of orchestrated effort I witnessed to discredit and diminish a brave individual whose social and political contributions and influence were so necessary and valuable to the preservation of any sense of freedom and democracy.

I credit Dick Gregory with influencing many important aspects of my life. He encouraged my political and social awareness; he increased my awareness of food adulteration and the chemical contamination of drinking water, and most significantly, I think, he emphasized the importance of respect, love and compassion in all of our interactions.

I appreciate Mr. Gregory’s influence and will always honor his memory.  ∞