Andy Witherspoon

Andy Witherspoon, center, in April 8, 2017, with Grand Prix CEO Jim Michaelian, left, and The Press-Telegram's Rich Archbold, receiving the Allen Wolfe Spirit Award for his coverage of the then-Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. (Photo by Brittany Murray, Press Telegram/SCNG)

Andy Witherspoon, a local legend whose photographs chronicled the life and times of Long Beach for almost five decades, passed away Tuesday.

Witherspoon, who shot photos for the city for nearly 50 years, died after a long struggle with cancer. He was in his early 70s.

The Long Beach City Council meeting Tuesday night was concluded in Witherspoon’s honor, according to Mark Taylor, chief of staff for Mayor Robert Garcia.

“Andy was a centerpiece at events in Long Beach for as long as I can remember,” Garcia said. “He was a hardworking and very kind person who will be deeply missed.”

Witherspoon received the Wolfe Spirit of the Grand Prix Award last year from Jim Michaelian, president of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach. The award is named after Allen Wolfe, longtime sportswriter for the Press-Telegram who covered every Grand Prix race until 1999 when he died of a heart attack.

Michaelian said Witherspoon was an outstanding photographer who contributed to the success of the Grand Prix and many other city events.

Witherspoon started shooting photos for the city with his father in 1967. At the time, his father was the official city photographer and was the only employee on the Queen Mary when it made its final voyage from England to Long Beach.

Witherspoon’s struggles with cancer limited his ability to take photos for the city, but he did as much as he could, shooting on a part-time basis.

Last year, Witherspoon kept his streak alive of shooting every Grand Prix race since the event started in 1975. But he could not make it to this year’s event.

“I wouldn’t miss the Grand Prix; it’s one of my favorite events,” he said in the days before the race in 2017. “Yesterday, I went up in a helicopter to shoot aerials of the race with Liezl (Estipona) who will follow me.”

Services are pending.

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