Oprah Winfrey’s father Vernon Winfrey has sadly passed away. According to WKRN, Metro Councilmember Sharon Hurt confirmed that he had died. Winfrey died in East Nashville at 89-years-old after battling cancer. The media mogul confirmed the passing of her father via Instagram.
Less than a week ago we honored my father in his own backyard. My friend and gospel singer Wintley Phipps saluted him with song. He FELT the love and reveled in it until he could no longer speak. Yesterday with family surrounding his bedside, I had the sacred honor of witnessing the man responsible for my life, take his last breath. We could feel Peace enter the room at his passing.
That Peace still abides. All is well. Thank you for your prayers and good thoughts.
His death comes days after Oprah Winfrey hosted a surprise “Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Day” event at his home so family can celebrate him. She flew in his sister, Christine, from Mississippi to surprise him. Since Winfrey had been a barber for almost 50 years, she delighted him with a barber’s station where he got a haircut.
After living with her maternal grandmother in Mississippi and mother, Vernita, in Milwaukee, she went to live with her father at 14-years-old permanently. She previously lived with him from ages seven to nine but then returned to live with her mother in Milwaukee. Back in 1986, she told The Washington Post that if it wasn’t for her father, her life would’ve taken a turn for the worst.
“If I hadn’t been sent to my father, I would have gone in another direction,” she said. “I could have made a good criminal. I would have used these same instincts differently.”
Vernon Winfrey arrived in Nashville in 1955 after being in the military. Oprah had just been born the year before. He then got two jobs: a pot washer at City Hospital for 75 cents an hour and a janitor at Vanderbilt University, the Post reported. Winfrey became a barber in 1964. Her father also owned a convenience store attached to his barbershop. He had also been a member of Nashville’s Metro Council since 1975.
Winfrey’s father was an avid supporter of his baby girl. He told the Post that he kept his barber’s chair empty so he could fully engaged once The Oprah Winfrey Show came on.
“Oprah’s show has caused me to lose some money between 9 and 10 in the morning,’ he said. “That’s because I need my eyes to cut hair and to watch her. The haircuts keep me from getting the full significance of it sometimes.”