"He was a legend in the entertainment industry, and a father figure to all who watched him over the years," John Witherspoon's family said in a statement

By Robyn Merrett and Dave Quinn
October 30, 2019 02:14 AM
John Witherspoon
Credit: Earl Gibson III/FilmMagic

Actor and comedian John Witherspoon, known to many for his role in the Friday films, has died. He was 77.

Late Tuesday night, Witherspoon’s family revealed the news in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

“It is with deep sadness we have to tweet this, but our husband and father John Witherspoon has passed away,” the tweet read, which was accompanied by a photo of Witherspoon smiling widely.

“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 statement concluded.

Witherspoon died on Tuesday at his home in Sherman Oaks, California, according to Deadline.

His family further opened up to the outlet, saying, “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.”

A cause of death is not immediately clear.

Witherspoon is survived by his wife Angela, whom he married in 1988, and his sons Alexander and John David Witherspoon.

John David spoke out about his dad’s death, sharing a series of sweet childhood memories 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 homes more than Father & Son, and I really liked that. He was my best friend & idol,” John David expressed.

“Love U Dad… I’ll miss u,” he added.

Born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1942, Witherspoon started his career doing stand-up comedy.

He later would go on to work in television in film, with 84 credits to his name including memorable roles in Soul Plane, The Tracy Morgan Show, The First Family, and Black Jesus, as well as voice work in The Boondocks and The Proud Family.

His most memorable role was in the comedy Friday, alongside Ice Cube and Chris Tucker.

Witherspoon played Cube’s father Willie Jones. He reprised the part in 2000’s Next Friday and 2002’s Friday After Next. He was set to play the role in the upcoming fourth installment Last Friday, which is currently in pre-production.

Other know Witherspoon as “Pops,” having played John Williams — the father of Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans‘ characters on The Wayans Bros, which ran from 1995 to 1999.

John Witherspoon
John Witherspoon
| Credit: Johnny Nunez/WireImage
John Witherspoon
John Witherspoon and the cast of the Tracy Morgan Show
| Credit: Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Following the news a number of celebrities, including Witherspoon’s former costars mourned his death on Twitter.

My dad, my grandpa, my comedic inspiration! I love you Spoons! Rest In Paradise, King,” Regina King, who played both Huey and Riley Freeman on The Boondocks, wrote.

Judd Apatow also paid tribute to Witherspoon, writing, “Pure funny. Hilarious and always kind. John Witherspoon will be missed.”