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Stars celebrate life of actor-comedian John Witherspoon

HOLLYWOOD — Black Hollywood gathered to say goodbye to actor-comedian John Witherspoon Nov. 5 at the Hall of Liberty in Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Memorial Park.

The private service for friends and family was a celebration of life ceremony, where invited guests dressed in bright, vibrant colors. The flyer for the service invited guests to “come ready to share memories, sing, dance and laugh the way only John could make us do.”

The flyer also asked guests not to wear black and to “dress to impress,” quoting Witherspoon’s famous line from the movie Boomerang, “You Gotta Coordinate!”

Witherspoon was born John Weatherspoon on Jan. 27, 1942 in Detroit, and died Oct. 29 in Sherman Oaks. He was best known for his series regular roles on “The Wayans Brothers,” “The Boondocks” and “Black Jesus.” He also had breakout roles in movies including “House Party,” “Boomerang” and the “Friday” trilogy.

David Letterman gave the opening invitation to celebrate. Letterman had known Witherspoons since the 1970s when they were both emcees at the Comedy Store. Witherspoon also was a frequent guest on Letterman’s two late night talk shows.

Other speakers at the service included Ice Cube, Shawn Wayans, Bill Bellamy, Angela Gibbs, George Wallace, and Cedric the Entertainer, as well as Regina King, who spoke on video.

Attendees also included Chris Tucker, U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters and Kim Whitley.

Hymns sung include “His Eye is On The Sparrow,” “Precious Lord,” “Say Amen,” and “I Love The Lord.” The songs, “What Becomes Of The Broken Hearted” by Jimmy Ruffin, “Ribbons In The Sky” by Stevie Wonder and “My Way” by Frank Sinatra were also performed. Performers at the service included Kim Yarborough, Shanice, Jeffery Osborne and Chante’ Moore.

Pastor Marvin Winans gave the invocation and eulogy.

The event’s program included many photos of Witherspoon throughout his life. A two-page collage featured pictures of Witherspoon posing with his family and with his famous friends and past co-workers, including Richard Pryor, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Ice Cube, Regina King, and Eddie Murphy.

Witherspoon appeared in more than 40 feature films and 40 television shows. He was more than grateful for all his work, but was particularly proud of his series regular roles and the roles where he was allowed to improvise.

Witherspoon is survived by his wife, Angela, his sons, J.D. and Alexander, as well as his extended family.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made to the Angela and John Witherspoon Family Foundation for the Arts or to the Actors Fund; both of which give small grants to actors and writers during times of urgent need.

The private service for friends and family was a celebration of life ceremony, where invited guests dressed in bright, vibrant colors. The flyer for the service invited guests to “come ready to share memories, sing, dance and laugh the way only John could make us do.”

The flyer also asked guests not to wear black and to “dress to impress,” quoting Witherspoon’s famous line from the movie Boomerang, “You Gotta Coordinate!”

Witherspoon was born John Weatherspoon on Jan. 27, 1942 in Detroit, and died Oct. 29 in Sherman Oaks. He was best known for his series regular roles on “The Wayans Brothers,” “The Boondocks” and “Black Jesus.” He also had breakout roles in movies including “House Party,” “Boomerang” and the “Friday” trilogy.

David Letterman gave the opening invitation to celebrate. Letterman had known Witherspoons since the 1970s when they were both emcees at the Comedy Store. Witherspoon also was a frequent guest on Letterman’s two late night talk shows.

Other speakers at the service included Ice Cube, Shawn Wayans, Bill Bellamy, Angela Gibbs, George Wallace, and Cedric the Entertainer, as well as Regina King, who spoke on video.

By Quinci Legardye

Contributing Writer