An actor and comedian who was a familiar face on television and on the big screen has died. John Witherspoon, who was a regular as “Pops” on the series “The Wayans Bros.” in the 1990s and had a major role as Willie Jones, father figure to Ice Cube’s character in the “Friday” films, died Tuesday in L.A., according to media reports.
Witherspoon reportedly died suddenly at his home in Sherman Oaks. His family released a statement confirming his death but did not release a cause of death. Witherspoon was 77.
The Witherspoon family sent out a tweet Tuesday night saying: “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.”
Many celebrities have been paying tribute to Witherspoon on social media. Marlon Wayans sent out a message on Instagram saying: “I’m sad. Broken. Hurt … yet extremely grateful to God that I got to spend 5 years of my life working with one of the funniest sweetest wisest humblest loving men.”
Witherspoon maintained a busy schedule of TV appearances going back to the 1970s, when he began appearing on shows including “The Richard Pryor Show,” “What’s Happening!!,” “Good Times” and “Barnaby Jones.”
Following his long run from 1995-1999 on “The Wayans Bros.,” he played Spoon on “The Tracy Morgan Show” in 2003-2004 and provided the voice of Robert “Granddad” Freeman on “The Boondocks” from 2005-2014. He also had a run as Grandpa Alvin on “The First Family,” and in recent years he had a major role as Lloyd on the Adult Swim sitcom “Black Jesus.”
Witherspoon was a frequent presence on the late-night talk circuit, including making many appearances with David Letterman, both in his NBC days, from 1984-1993, and after Letterman moved to CBS.
Here’s a clip of John Witherspoon highlights posted to YouTube by the U.K. publication The Guardian …