John Weatherspoon, better known as “John Witherspoon” was a comedian and actor. Best known for his role as “Willie Pops Jones” in the Friday series of films, Witherspoon has a vast filmography and television career. Despite not having many leading roles, his over-the-top characters stole scenes and created iconic lines that have lasted beyond the films.
A native of Detroit, Witherspoon began his career as a model but gravitated towards comedy in the 60s and 70s. His quick wit and likable personality gained him many friends in the industry, including the likes of Tim Reid, Robin Williams, Jay Leno, and David Letterman. Letterman eventually became the godfather to Witherspoon’s two sons, John David (JD) and Alexander.
In addition to the Friday series of films, Witherspoon made appearances in many popular and successful films. These include Hollywood Shuffle (1987), I’m Gonna Get You Sucka (1988), House Party (1990), The Five Heartbeats (1991), and Boomerang (1992). It was his character (Mr. Jackson) in Boomerang that taught audiences how to “coordinate” and “bang, bang, bang!”
Witherspoon died of a heart attack in his California home on October 29, 2019. He was survived by his wife, Angela Robinson (1988), and two sons. He was 77 years old.
A heart attack, or myocardial infarction, is when blood flow decreases or stops to a part of the heart, causing damage to the heart muscle. Heart disease is a series of conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can lead to a heart attack, chest pain (angina), or stroke. African American adults are more likely to be diagnosed with coronary heart disease, and they are more likely to die from heart disease.
More black men die from heart attacks associated with stress than any other ethnic group in the United States. There are few early warning signs, which is why it is necessary to get regular check-ups. The check-ups include the following tests:
- Cholesterol – a fat that can add to plaques in your arteries
- Blood Pressure – The American Heart Association says blacks are more than three times as likely to die from heart disease caused by high blood pressure as whites
- ECG or EKG (Electrocardiogram) – test that looks at the electrical activity in the heart.
Some physical signs of heart disease include:
- A weak or numb feeling on one side of the face or body
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, stomach, and neck
- Fluttering in the chest, heart “skipping a beat”, or beating too hard
Seven Ways To Prevent Heart Disease/Attack
- Know your blood pressure and keep it under control. This includes regular check-ups and adherence to healthy eating and medication as provided by your physician.
- Exercise regularly. Daily walks of 15-20 min or more can help keep your heart healthy and strong.
- Don’t smoke or quit smoking. Smoking can narrow the blood vessels and restrict lung capacity. These things can cause stress on the heart.
- Get tested for diabetes and, if you have it, keep it under control. Excessive sugar in the bloodstream can cause the narrowing and blockage of blood vessels.
- Know your cholesterol and triglyceride levels and keep them under control. As mentioned, cholesterol is a fat that can clog and block the arteries, causing a heart attack.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Meats can be high in cholesterol while fruits and vegetables contain natural sugars, vitamins, and other nutrients that can help flush the body of toxic agents.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity can lead to a myriad of health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the potential of getting these illnesses.
BDO’s Black History of Health series is designed to show the correlation between the health of historical Black figures and Black Americans today. Many of the health disparities we currently experience have been in our community for centuries. This series is meant to bring these conditions to the forefront and provide blacks with preventative and management steps to reduce these disparities and improve the overall health of the Black American community. It’s time to change the narrative.