Actor John Witherspoon Dead At 77

By Rogan Smith |
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One of my favourite actors and comedians, John “Pops” Witherspoon passed away on Tuesday.

Witherspoon died suddenly in his Sherman Oaks home in California . His family made the announcement on social media. I was actually at my salon listening to Sirius radio when I heard the tail end of an announcer saying that an actor had died.

I then turned to my hairstylist and asked her if she knew who had passed away and she replied, “Pops.” I swear, I immediately got emotional. You know the fans have a serious connection with you when they can call you by a nickname, “Pops.”

I watched this amazing actor on The Wayans Brothers for years. He played Marlon and Shawn Wayans’ TV dad and did so incredibly well. He was so funny and imparted wisdom on his TV sons without being corny. One of the reasons I loved his acting style is because it was so real. I could see many family members in his character, including my mum.

To this day I watch the show and laugh like it’s my first time watching it.

L-R: Marlon Wayans, John Witherspoon and Shawn Wayans, the hilarious stars of The Wayans Brothers.

His TV Son Says He’s “Broken And Hurt”

Following his death, Marlon, who played Pops’ son for five years, said he was “broken” and “hurt.” He posted a tribute to his “second Pops” on social media.

“I’m sad. Broken. Hurt. Yet, extremely grateful to God that I got to spend five years of my life working with one of the funniest, sweetest, wisest humblest, loving man [sic]. You were my TV dad and my mentor and my friend. I miss you already. Something don’t feel right. This is heavy on my heart. Anyone that knows me knows how much I love Pops,” he said.

“You have a strong wife and great kids. What an amazing family. Your boys damn near grew up on the Wayans Brothers set. They’ll always be like my little brothers and sons. I will pass on all the jewels that you bestowed on to us. I miss [you] already. Hope you’re dancing in heaven with ugly white shoes on.”

Pops also played Ice Cube’s dad in the Friday series, as well as grandad in the Boondocks show. His resume is quite lengthy, but those are just a few of the characters his audience came to love him for. Just recently, he said that he was hoping to reprise his Boondocks role.

I Saw Him Perform Live Twice

I feel incredibly privileged to have seen him perform live twice at the Atlantis Paradise Island resort. I’ll never forget seeing him the first time. He wore his traditional “Pops” get-up – a tacky polyester shirt, white pants and some white tic-tac shoes. It was hilarious. But, he was even funnier than his outfit. He had the entire audience cracking up with his antics and hard-to-believe stories about how he evaded going to war.

I promised that the next time he returned I would go again. So, I did. This time, I took my mum. She had seen him on TV for years and had gotten used to my family calling her Pops, so she was eager to see how he was in person. It was one of the greatest moments of my life to witness her laugh so hard at this man. It’s a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Actor John Witherspoon in his memorable bowtie.

Sadly, my brother, who is probably one of Pops’ biggest fans in the world didn’t get to see him live. I had invited him to join us at the Atlantis, but he couldn’t get off work. He said, “Ro, I’m so sad I’m going to miss him, but I’ll have to catch him next time. Next time, I’m not missing my boy.” Unfortunately, he won’t get that chance.

It’s funny, because as Pops was performing, I stared at him on stage, grateful for the opportunity to witness this amazing talent, but at the same time wondering how much longer he had. I was sitting in the audience praying that he would be here with us well into his nineties. But, God had other plans.

Pops’ death is really a reminder to follow your dreams all the way because he seemed to live his life to the fullest. It also reminds me not to take people and moments for granted. He was a wonderful soul. May he rest in eternal peace.



This Bahamian Gyal

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