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October 13, 2022

Kevin Hart mourns death of father, having forgiven his troubled past

The North Philly native has been open about his dad's battle with drug addiction during his childhood

Comedian Kevin Hart revealed late Wednesday that his father, Henry Witherspoon, died this week at 73 years old.

Hart, who lost his mother to ovarian cancer in 2007, shared a message of gratitude for the relationship he had with his father.

"Give mom a hug for me," Hart wrote on Instagram.

The 43-year-old actor didn't say how his dad died, but Witherspoon reportedly had various health issues in recent years. Hart was in Philadelphia last week to visit Robert Morris Elementary School in Brewerytown, where he gave students copies of his new children's book, "Marcus Makes It Big."

Hart grew up in North Philadelphia about a block from where a mural is dedicated to him on the wall of Max's Cheesesteaks, at Broad and Erie Avenue. In his 2017 memoir, "I Can't Make This Up," Hart opened up about his dad being absent during much of his childhood and his struggles with drug addiction.

"Regardless of my upbringing and the way I was raised and how often he was in my life, he's my dad," Hart told People in 2018, explaining that the two had reconciled their differences.

As a kid, Hart's dad once stole $20 of birthday gift money from him to feed his drug addiction, the star recalled in an interview on "The Howard Stern Show." Hart said his father used heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine while he was growing up. He also was in and out of jail.

In reflecting on those memories, Hart said that they may have been valuable life lessons for him.

"If my dad hadn't been around and didn't do drugs, I may be handling my success differently," Hart said. "I may be on drugs, I may be searching for something."

Hart and his older brother, Robert, ultimately convinced their dad to enter rehab, where he turned his life around and found a romantic partner. Hart often has credited his brother for acting as a father figure in his life while his mother, Nancy, held the family together. 

In more recent years, Hart made efforts to share his success with his father.

"I'm in a position where I'm blessed and I can provide," Hart told Stern. "I can say, 'Here, dad, here's a home, here's a car, here's some money. Go spend time with your grandkids. Be the best grandpop.'"

Hart also says his forgiveness of his father came from the forgiveness of himself for mistakes he's made, including a cheating scandal that nearly derailed his second marriage to Eneko Parrish. Hart has four children, including a son and daughter with ex-wife Torrei and another son and daughter with Parrish.

"I understand that nobody's perfect, people are flawed, people make mistakes," Hart said of his dad in 2018. "I shouldn't hold a high level of judgement over your head about things I can't change."