John Witherspoon, Beloved and Prolific Actor-Comedian, Dead at 77

John Witherspoon arrives at the premiere of Sony Pictures’ ‘Hancock” on June 30, 2008 in Hollywood, California.
John Witherspoon arrives at the premiere of Sony Pictures’ ‘Hancock” on June 30, 2008 in Hollywood, California.
Photo: Michael Buckner (Getty Images)

John Witherspoon, the “Pops” and “Grandad” of Black Hollywood, has died at the age of 77. The actor-comedian died suddenly in his home on Tuesday.


“It is with deepest sorrow that we can confirm our beloved husband and father, John Witherspoon, one of the hardest working men in show business, died today at his home in Sherman Oaks at the age of 77,” said Witherspoon’s family in a statement to Deadline. “He is survived by his wife Angela, and his sons JD, Alexander, and a large family. We are all in shock, please give us a minute for a moment in privacy and we will celebrate his life and his work together. John used to say ‘I’m no big deal’, but he was [a] huge deal to us.”

Hailing from Detroit, Witherspoon came into the world as John Weatherspoon in 1942.

Consistently a staple in Hollywood, Witherspoon’s storied career included the epic Friday franchise (the actor was set to reprise his role in the third installment, Last Friday, but the project hasn’t begun filming at this time, per The Hollywood Reporter), Hollywood Shuffle, The Wayans Bros., The Richard Pryor Show, The Incredible Hulk, Good Times, The Tracy Morgan Show, Vampire in Brooklyn, I’m Gonna Git You Sucka, Boomerang, Black Jesus, Boondocks and much, much more. Beginning his acting career in 1977 (as well as a stand-up comedy career in the late 1970s), Witherspoon continued to shine onscreen and bless the audience well into his seventies.

Netflix’s Strong Black Legends podcast had the honor of interviewing Witherspoon. Their podcast’s mission is to give (both literal and figurative) flowers to black staples while they’re still with us. With Witherspoon’s interview, they accomplished just that.

Strong Black Legends: John Witherspoon / Netflix (YouTube)

Witherspoon is survived by his wife Angela Robinson and his two sons J.D. and Alexander.


“I’m sad, but I’m also happy for all the great times we had together,” J.D. tweeted on Tuesday evening. “We’d roast each other like homies more than Father & Son, and I really liked that.”


Rest in Power, Pops. You’ll always have a place in our hearts.

Staff Writer, Entertainment at The Root. Sugar, spice & everything rice. Equipped with the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.


Murry Chang

None of these lists mention that he was in The Ladies Man, one of the funniest SNL movies: