- Search The Registry
- Teacher’s Forum
- Youth Programs
- About Us
- Creating Support
- My Account
*John Witherspoon was born on this date in 1942. He was a Black actor and comedian. Born John Weatherspoon in Detroit, Michigan, he later changed his last name from Weatherspoon to Witherspoon. Witherspoon was one of 11 siblings; he had a passion for music and learned to play the trumpet and French horn. His elder brother, William, became a songwriter for Motown Records, with whom he penned the lyrics of the 1966 hit single "What Becomes of the Brokenhearted".
Another sibling, Cato, was a director of the PBS-TV Network/CH56 in Detroit. Their sister, Gertrude Stacks, is a pastor in Shalom Fellowship International church in Detroit. Witherspoon worked occasionally as a model. During the 1960s and 1970s, he began to take a liking towards comedy. During that time, he began his stand-up comedy career. As a result, he had many friends in the business, including Tim Reid, Robin Williams, Jay Leno, and David Letterman.
He performed in many Blaxploitation feature films (comedies), including Friday (and its sequels Next Friday and Friday After Next) as well as Hollywood Shuffle, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka, Bird, Vampire in Brooklyn, and The Meteor Man. Witherspoon was also known for his over-the-top characters in films such as House Party and Boomerang.
His first television appearance was on the 1970s television show Barnaby Jones. Subsequent appearances were on Good Times, What's Happening!! and The Incredible Hulk. In 1977, he became a regular on the series The Richard Pryor Show. This then led to his appearance in WKRP In Cincinnati in 1982. In 1981, he appeared in Hill Street Blues, and on L.A. Law, and another television series including You Again? A year later Witherspoon was in Amen (1988). Witherspoon married Angela Robinson in 1988. They had two sons, John David ("J.D.") and Alexander. David Letterman was Witherspoon's best friend and is the godfather to his two sons.
Next came spots on Townsend Television (1993), Cosmic Slop (1994), and Murder Was The Case (1994) as a drunk. He appeared in Living Single (1997) episode "Three Men and a Buckeye" as Smoke Eye Howard. His largest role in a television series was in The Wayans Bros. (1995–1999) which Witherspoon played their father, John "Pops" Williams. Witherspoon was on the Kids' WB animation series Waynehead, which was aired on Saturday mornings and was based on creator Damon Wayans' life.
In 2003, Witherspoon made a showing on Last Comic Standing, a reality television show that selected the comedian out of a group and gave him a contract, in the Las Vegas finals. Also in 2003, he performed in The Proud Family, and in an episode of an animated series, Kim Possible. He starred in the comedy series The Tracy Morgan Show as Spoon in all 18 episodes of the show. In 2004, he was in Pryor Offenses, a television movie where he played Willie the Wino.
In 2005, he was seen in the Comedy Central talk show Weekends at the D.L. In the same year, he began starring in Aaron McGruder's animated series The Boondocks as Robert Jebediah "Granddad" Freeman. In 2006, he performed in a television movie, Thugaboo: A Miracle on D-Roc's Street. His next appearance was on The Super Rumble Mixshow in 2008. He also appeared in another Aaron McGruder series, Black Jesus, portraying Lloyd, a homeless man. In 2008, Witherspoon released a hip-hop comedy album titled "63 Cent". Witherspoon went back to his comedian roots and started a comedy tour that premiered on television on March 28, 2008. On his 2009 tour, he had 19 stops across the country.
In December 2011, Witherspoon performed his stand-up comedy act once again on stage at the Funny Bone comedy club at Harrah's Casino in Tunica, Mississippi. In 2011, he starred in a Final Destination spoof on YouTube. In May 2013, he featured on "Saturday (skit)", from rapper Logic on his 2013 mixtape titled Young Sinatra: Welcome to Forever. Witherspoon appeared in many music videos in the music industry. He was in the music video for hip-hop superstar Jay-Z's 2000 single "I Just Wanna Love U (Give It 2 Me)". He was also in Field Mob's music video for their song "Sick of Being Lonely". Other music movies include Goodie Mob's "They Don't Dance No Mo'" and LL Cool J's "Ain't Nobody". He is best remembered for his role as Willie Jones for the Friday series. John Witherspoon died of a heart attack at his home in Sherman Oaks, California, on October 29, 2019. He was 77 years old. His funeral was held on November 5, 2019, and he was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Hollywood Hills, California.