Oprah went to Instagram on Saturday to dedicate a heartwarming tribute to her father Vernon Winfrey, who died at the age of 88 on Friday. The media mogul, who organized a special celebration for her father a week ago as he was battling cancer, said “he felt the love” in his final days.
“Less than a week ago we honored my father in his own backyard.” Oprah wrote. “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.”
As Blavity previously reported, Oprah honored her father during the Fourth of July weekend, bringing together family and friends to celebrate “Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Day.”
“So, we’ve been planning a backyard barbecue that’s actually more than a backyard barbecue, it’s for Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Day,” Oprah said in an Instagram video. “Because my father is ill and so we wanted to be able to have all of his friends come and celebrate him while he is able to receive the joy, so that’s what we’re doing, receiving the joy. He doesn’t even know that this is for him. He thinks it’s a Fourth of July thing, he doesn’t even know it’s for him.”
As she was joined by her friend Gayle King at the party, Oprah showed footage of her father sitting in a barber chair.
“My dad is a barber so we put him in the barber chair,” she said.
Speaking with People in 2021, Oprah expressed appreciation for her father.
“I had a father who took responsibility for me, even though he knew I could have been somebody else’s child,” she told People.
The 68-year-old said her parents never married, but Vernon found a surprise news after a brief encounter with the woman who became the mother of his child.
“They had sex once.” Oprah said. “He gets a letter after I’m born saying, ‘Send money. You have a daughter.’ And the reason he did, he said, is because it could have been him. And the responsibility that he took for me, not just a responsibility but care and love and direction and support as a young teenage girl, is the thing that made the difference in me being who I am now or somebody you would have never, ever heard of.”
According to NBC News, Vernon worked as a Nashville city councilman for 16 years. He was also the owner of Winfrey Barber & Beauty.
Nashville Mayor John Cooper offered his condolences in a tweet.
“Vernon served on Metro Council for 16 years, and dedicated his life to entrepreneurship, barbering and mentoring young men in the community,” Cooper tweeted. “An Army veteran and deacon, he leaves behind a legacy of service.”
According to NPR, Oprah spent her early childhood in her father’s hometown of Kosciusko, Mississippi. She also spent time in Milwaukee with her mother, Vernita Lee, who died in 2018.
During her teens, Oprah lived in Nashville with her father.
“If I hadn’t been sent to my father (when I was 14), I would have gone in another direction,” Oprah told the Washington Post in 1986. “I could have made a good criminal. I would have used these same instincts differently.”