LOS ANGELES -- Stepin Fetchit, Hollywood's first black movie star, was eulogized by friends who said he taught them to take pride in the fact that they were black.
The comedian, whose portrayal of a shuffling, perpetually bemused Uncle Tom-like figure brought bitter condemnation from younger blacks, died this week of pneumonia and heart failure.
'He taught me not only to be a good entertainer and to take pride in what I do, but he also taught me to be black and to be proud of the fact that I was black,' Sunny Craver, an actor and friend of Fetchit, said at his funeral Friday.
'We have to draw distinctions between the character Stepin Fetchit and the man.'
About 50 friends and relatives attended the services at St. Agatha's Catholic Church.
'Stepin Fetchit took pride in the fact that he was the only black movie star,' said Hosea Alexander, a church deacon. 'He had been a benefactor to many young actors and actresses.'
Fetchit, who made and lost a fortune in the movie industry in the 1920s and 1930s, was born Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry. His movies included 'In Old Kentucky,' 'Show Boat,' 'Stand up and Cheer' and 'The Country Gentlemen.'
Craver told mourners that he met Fetchit in 1956, and recalled how the actor helped protect him from losing his job by telling a theater manager that he was needed in the post.
He also said Fethcit lost his money because of his tremendous generosity.
'I once saw him hand a producer $30,000 in cash,' Craver said. 'The producer asked for a loan, but Stepin Fetchit said, 'I won't lend it to you, I'll give it to you.''
The mourners included Fetchit's wife and only surviving son, Jemajo Perry. The actor was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.