This month is my birth month. On the 10th, I turn 80. I guess that makes me officially an old man. I spent over forty years as a licensed Lawyer and over twenty years as a Licensed Barber. I guess that combination makes me a wise old man. Below, I give a summary of my life in hopes that it provides a road map for some young boy or girl moving forward with their life.
I finished High School at seventeen and went directly to Barber School where I finished at age eighteen. I went on to pass the state Barber Board, gaining a license to practice Barbering. I went to work cutting hair making about twenty-five dollars per week. We charged about one dollar and twenty-five cents for a haircut. I went to work at a shop where I made about forty-five dollars per week.
I note that my father served as my model for my procedures at the State Board Exam. Both my mother and father encouraged me to start Barbering. Before becoming a barber, I worked after school in my mother’s second hand store. Her store was next door to a well-known Barber Shop where I spent a lot of time. My Dad worked as a detail man at a used car lot and I also worked there a little.
Working my mother’s store was very educational. I learned about Inventory, sales, and most of all, dealing with people. At one point “I felt my oats”, as my Dad would say, and decided I didn’t want to work at a second hand store. I wanted to find my own job. I found one, picking cotton. My mother paid me one dollar per hour. Picking cotton paid three dollars for one hundred pounds of cotton. I challenge anyone to pick up one piece of cotton and imagine how much cotton it took to pick one hundred pounds of it. Then, after you’ve weigh a boll of cotton, you should reflect on how much work our ancestors had to put in, for free. We all should turn our head to the skies and say, “Thank you”.
One day when I was twenty years old, my mother came to me and said she had rented a Barber Shop, one block away from her store and it was mine. That was a significant day in my life. On another day, I took a girl named Ruthie out on a date.
After going to the movies I, took her to my family home to introduce her to my mother. She liked Ruthie, so did I. Mama told me I should marry her. Three months later, we had a church wedding. That was a significant day in my life.
After a few years of operating my shop, my uncle Arthur, a postman and realtor, and Bakersfield’s only black Lawyer, named Gabe, came to me and asked if I would run for the Bakersfield School Board. I said yes, and we mounted a campaign. I would have been the first black on the School Board. I lost but got more votes than anyone had ever gotten before. I was so impressed with Arthur and Gabe’s negotiating skills that I decided I wanted to be a Lawyer. Gabe, who was a friend of Willie Brown, assured me I had the ability and could do it.
I headed for college having not completed even one year of College in Bakersfield. I and a very reluctant Ruthie come with me along with our 1st son, Yusef. We headed to Los Angeles. I entered Pepperdine College and then law school. It was difficult, but after college and working in many barber shops, seventeen years later I passed the bar and began a fifty year career as a Lawyer.
Hopefully, this story gives you a push to go on, it’s now years later, a total of sixty years, three sons, seven grandchildren, and one great granddaughter later, I’m still kicking, thank God!