Actor and comedian John Witherspoon, best known for playing Ice Cube’s dad Willie Jones in the Friday film series, has died at the age of 77. He passed away Tuesday at his home in Sherman Oaks, California. No cause of death has yet been revealed, but his family said they were “in shock”.
Witherspoon’s manager Alex Goodman confirmed his death on Tuesday. His family also released a statement to Deadline:
“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 […] 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 huge deal to us.”
The family also released a statement on Twitter.
It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband & father John Witherspoon has passed away. He was a Legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years. We love you “POPS” always & forever.
– The Witherspoon Family pic.twitter.com/ov9P34kaMn
— John Witherspoon (@John_POPS_Spoon) October 30, 2019
His son JD Witherspoon paid tribute on Twitter.
So…my Dad died today & honestly I’m not sure how to feel. I’m sad, but I’m also happy 4 all the great times we had together. We’d roast each other like homies more than Father & Son, and I really liked that. He was my best friend & my idol.
Love U Dad…I’ll miss u.
– J.D. pic.twitter.com/zvzep5S11I
— J.D. (@jdwitherspoon) October 30, 2019
Tributes pour in on Twitter
Fans, colleagues, friends and celebs have been paying tribute on Twitter. Former Friday cast-mates who posted messages in his honor include Ice Cube, who played Craig Jones, and Regina King, who played Willie’s daughter Dana. Marlon Wayans and Jay Pharoah also paid tribute.
I’m devastated over the passing of John Witherspoon. Life won’t be as funny without him. pic.twitter.com/gtmiZiEppP
— Ice Cube (@icecube) October 30, 2019
My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration! I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King pic.twitter.com/U6GsNrrKXF
— Regina King (@ReginaKing) October 30, 2019
My heart hurts so much right now, RIP to John Witherspoon,I appreciate our conversations and the wisdom you gave me as a young comic, we lost a real one today and It'd be remiss to not say he was and is irreplaceable and a invaluable icon in the comedic community sleep easy man? pic.twitter.com/whOsWNq3t0
— Jay Pharoah (@JayPharoah) October 30, 2019
— BET (@BET) October 30, 2019
God bless John Witherspoon. The definition of an icon. Wow. pic.twitter.com/2wUBXglzSW
— Chance The Rapper (@chancetherapper) October 30, 2019
Who was John Witherspoon?
John Witherspoon was born in Detroit, Michigan in January 27, 1942. He started his entertainment career as a stand-up comedian and began acting on TV in the late 1970s, making his feature debut in The Jazz Singer (1980).
He married Angela Robinson Witherspoon in 1988.
Witherspoon appeared in all three Friday films — Friday (1995), Next Friday (2000), and Friday After Next (2002) — as Willie Jones. He voiced Robert “Granddad” Freeman in The Boondocks (2005-2014) animated series, alongside Gary Anthony Williams as Uncle Ruckus. He also played John “Pops” Williams in The Wayans Bros. (1995-1999).
Witherspoon’s film credits include his role as Mr. Jones in Hollywood Shuffle (1987) and Silas Green in Vampire in Brooklyn (1995). He played Mr. Jackson in Boomerang (1992), alongside Eddie Murphy as Marcus and Robert Givens as Jacqueline. He also appeared as Bill in Fakin’ Da Funk (1997) and Scrap Iron in The Ladies Man (2000).
Witherspoon is survived by his wife Angela Robinson, and sons JD and Alexander.