Oprah Winfrey’s Father, Vernon, Dead at 88

by Caitlin Berard

Vernon Winfrey, father of daytime TV icon Oprah Winfrey and former Metro Nashville Councilmember, died at the age of 88 on Friday evening (July 8th) after a difficult battle with cancer. Tragically, his death came just days after his daughter, Oprah, visited him to celebrate Independence Day as well as “Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Day.”

“Giving my father his ‘flowers’ while he’s still well enough to smell them,” she wrote on Instagram. “Happy 4th of July as you gather with your family and friends. Remember to celebrate each other.”

People around the world know Vernon Winfrey as “Oprah’s dad,” which he no doubt felt was a badge of honor. Around his hometown of Nashville, however, he was best known for his barbershop, Winfrey Barber & Beauty Shop.

Nashville Residents Mourn the Loss of Vernon Winfrey

The loss of the beloved townsman, Vernon Winfrey, was met with shock and distress from his fellow Nashville residents. Even the current Mayor of Music City, John Cooper, spoke out about the loss.

“I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Vernon Winfrey,” he wrote. “Vernon served on Metro Council for 16 years and dedicated his life to entrepreneurship, barbering, and mentoring young men in the community. An Army veteran and deacon, he leaves behind a legacy of service.”

“He was a great guy. Very humble and down to earth. Owned a barbershop here in Nashville. Everyone felt welcomed who stepped in its doors. He will be missed,” one resident wrote.

“Not everyone knows [Oprah] attended high school, went to [Tennessee State University], and got her start in broadcasting in Nashville,” another said. “Her family has contributed greatly to our community. We’re so sorry to hear about [Vernon Winfrey].”

Oprah Winfrey has yet to comment on the heartbreaking loss of her father, nor has the type of cancer with which he was fighting been revealed. It’s well-known, however, that Oprah has always believed in the vital importance of family and staying true to her Tennessee roots.

“No matter how hard the trial or difficulty in your life, your family should be your soft place to fall,” Oprah wrote on her website. “Your true family, whether they’re biological or acquired, holds a sacred trust for you. There’s a holy covenant of unconditional desire for you to be all that you were meant to be.”