Willie Barlow, 82; Barbershop founder was community pillar

Willie Barlow was a soft-spoken man but when he spoke, it was meaningful. He helped others out of the kindness of his heart and if he had it, you had it.

Barlow was one of the first African-Americans to open a business in the southwest Atlanta area, Barlow’s Barber Shop, said his son Tracy Barlow.

In October 1970 Barlow opened the doors of Barlow’s Barber Shop, which his son called the oldest continuously operating black-owned business in south Fulton County.

One of the best ways to get to know him was if you met him in that barbershop, his daughter, Paige Barlow, said.

In 1951, Barlow was drafted into the U.S. Army at the beginning of the Korean Conflict and during American segregation. Committed to his family, Barlow sent most of his checks home to support them. He refined his barbering skills by cutting the hair of members of his battalion for extra money.

Upon returning home in 1953 he found few opportunities. He worked on a railroad in Chattanooga and held several jobs before he completed school at Brown’s School of Barbering.

“He would always say, ‘It’s not how much money you make, it’s what you do with it and it’s not where you go to school, it’s what you do when you get there’,” said his daughter.

Barlow was offered a job by real-estate mogul Herman Glass, to manage the University Barbershop near the campuses of Atlanta’s historically black colleges. He cut hair for sports figures Henry “Cool Poppa Bell” of the Negro Baseball League, and Hank Aaron, Felipe Alou and Rico Carty of the Atlanta Braves.

“He was a very special individual,” added his son Tracy Barlow.

He was known for his meticulous and professional style. In the 1960s he had the opportunity to serve Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Dr. Benjamin E. Mays, Julian Bond, Ralph David Abernathy, Andrew Young, Dr. Hamilton Holmes and Maynard Jackson.

Willie Joseph Barlow of Atlanta died Nov. 27 of a heart attack. He was 82. A funeral service will be 11 a.m. Saturday at Providence Missionary Baptist Church, 2295 Benjamin Mays Dr. SW, Atlanta. Murray Brothers Cascade Chapel is in charge of arrangements.

“He was a remarkable man who led a remarkable life,” said his godson, Raynard Johnson.

In the 1970s Barlow’s Barber Shop became a melting pot for politicians to meet the public: Mayor Jackson, Young, Michael Lomax, Jim Maddox, John Lewis and Shirley Franklin stopped in for haircuts and to discuss issues concerning the community.

Barlow was honored by the Alonzo Herndon Foundation for his commitment to the community.

“One of his favorite quotes was, ‘Once a task has begun never leave until it’s done, be thy labor great or small do it well or not at all’,” said his daughter.

His support of the community has been felt for over 44 years, and his shop has seen over four decades of community change.

“He said that ‘one of the biggest and truest blessings in life is to be able to do what you have a passion for and be rewarded for it’ and that’s what he was doing in his life,” said his daughter.

In addition to his son and only daughter Barlow is survived by sons Clovis Hicks, Joseph Barlow, Blake Barlow, Steven Barlow and 14 grandchildren.