Glenn Michael Witcher, a name known in the Miami and Michigan theater world, died May 3, after an illness. He was 60.
He grew up in Flint, Mich., a city whose economy hinged on a thriving auto manufacturing industry. As the industry faltered, young men turned to creative activities, some legal, some not. Known as “Slim” and the “Ice Man,” the stylish and charismatic Witcher turned to the stage where he’d find a respite from the pressures of being a young black man in America.
Glenn first caught the acting bug when he joined the Floyd J. McCree Theatre of Fine Arts in Flint. In 1975, the appeal of tropical breezes and the bright Florida sunshine lured him away from the harsh winters of Michigan. He landed in Miami – the Magic City, and soon began to display his gift of character role play to a new audience.
Community activist Dinizulu Gene Tinnie said he first met Witcher in the late 1970s, running into each other at various cultural events and developing a friendship. He remembers being impressed to see Witcher pitching in at the 2003 restoration of the Oscar Thomas mural at Northwest Seventh Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard.
“That was just the kind of man he was,” Tinnie said.
Live theater became his greatest medium and television and film followed. Miami’s preeminent black theater groups sought Glenn for starring roles in such notable stage plays as The River Niger, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, El Hadj Malik (Malcolm X), Welcome Home Jacko, Gentleman Caller, and The Sty of the Blind Pig. He appeared in scenes in NBC’s Miami Vice opposite Don Johnson.
He was featured in the film Let It Ride with Richard Dreyfus, among others.
Closest to his heart was The Minstrel Man, a character he brought to life as his way of paying homage to Bert Williams, a pioneer of black theater in the early 19th century who in his day was called the funniest man in America besides W.C. Fields.
“He brought real acting to Miami. He raised the level of the craft,” said Tinnie. “He was so dedicated, so professional. Probably many aspiring actors gained a lot on inspiration from him. In other places he would have been more famous; he would have received more recognition.”
He rose to prominence with the M Ensemble Theater Company in Miami. He was also affiliated with Up Grove Theater Company in Coconut Grove, Connection
Theater Company and Gold Coast Theater Company, both in Miami.
In 1988, He met the love of his life, Donzella Washington. A chance hearing of his dramatic baritone voice on an answering machine was the first sign; then their introduction by a mutual friend sealed the deal. They were soon inseparable. Their time was filled with Witcher cooking for holiday dinners in between performances, Saturday morning outings to their favorite flea market and his favorite past time of remote-control vehicle racing.
Witcher was born in Flint July 9, 1953 to Hosea Witcher and Clora T. Mullins Witcher.
He is the third eldest of their five children. Witcher leaves his life partner Donzella “Mickey” Washington; sons Billy Terrall and Glenn Michaels Johnson; stepson John Everett Johnson II; sisters Francetta Bowie and Vonda Witcher (James Green); his maternal aunt Mozie Slaughter (Robert Slaughter); his surrogate sister Jeanette Stephens-El; and a host of family, friends and admirers. He is predeceased by a brother Leodis Witcher and sister Maryanna Turner.