Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great because greatness is determined by service.”Martin Luther King Jr.
Johnny Graham was never famous, but he was undoubtedly a great man. His service is legendary in Sunny South Dallas.
Thanks to a newly-minted marker planted at the corner of Robert B. Cullum and Albert Louis Lipscomb, the Graham name will be famous in the City of Dallas.
Johnny Crawford and his daughter, Sherri, made the November 14 dedication a raving success! And despite thunderous downpours throughout the day on Monday; alumni, customers, community members and elected officials showed up
to pay homage to the man who educated and served several communities.
And rightly so.
In 1948, Mr. Graham moved from Florida to Texas and in 1951 opened his first shop at 2804 Southland. That one shop grew to two, then five, and eventually, it spawned a barber college.
Johnny and his wife, La France, a beautician, were on their way to success.
Soon after, they purchased a small strip shopping center and, in their heyday, owned eight barber shops and had 140 employees on their roster. But, long before the chain barber shops, they were offering health insurance and other benefits.
The Texas Legislature decided in 1909 to regulate barbershops, but an error in the bill’s content made it unenforceable until it was re-written in 1929.
H.M. Morgan of Tyler Barber College was the first to open, but Graham followed the example and opened a barber college in Dallas. The school also maintains a graduation rate above 90%.
In 1969, Preston Smith, the 40th Governor of our state and a Democrat, awarded Johnny Graham with the Texas Small Businessman Award. Just think about that.
That same year, I graduated from an Ivy League cut (short and faded) to having my newly-grown afro shaped and scissor cut. Graham Barber Shop was an institution then, and most of my political curiosity blossomed as I sat in his chair.
You ain’t heard a heated political or social discourse until you watch the crossfire of ideologies in a barbershop full of opinionated Black men. Damn! There is an old Jewish Proverb that comes to mind. You put three Jews in a room; you get four opinions.”
Black men are no different. The celebration for this marker started with an exciting announcement. Carol and Carl Frasure, the new owners of the College, received
full accreditation for the school in July of this year.
That means future students can use Pell Grants, Student Loans, and Scholarships toward tuition. That is more important than most would understand.
Back in the day, that was all Black youth had. If you were “Wildin’out” your parents offered two choices: a trade school or the armed services. Those two institutions have grown more poor Black people than any other.
One of the testimonies shared by Dennis Griffin will help you comprehend. At 26, when he was “Wildin’ out,” his mom, a barber, drove him to the school parking lot and announced that it was his last chance. He took her seriously and, as a result, made a good life for himself and his family.
Ray Schufford Jr. and his sister Natarsha also sang their praises. Their father had been a barber, and both were enrolled by age 13. Nartasha explained how a poor college student at the University of Texas at Austin became a business owner. Word got out that she could cut hair, and all the athletes made a beeline to her door. So much so that she was forced to open a shop off campus.
Ray Jr., her brother, now a retired firefighter with the Dallas Fire Department, never stopped cutting hair. He is well known in Dallas for his “Mobile Barber Services,” where he visits clients. The lessons they learned about business, customer service, and professionalism at a young age have paid unimaginable benefits.
They are, like Johnny Graham, living examples of Dr. King’s message to the Black community of his day. You don’t have to be famous to be great. The avenue to greatness open to all is in service to others. Service is a staple and symbol we have forfeited, and we must learn how to retrieve it.
All Johnny Graham ever did was serve, and as a result, he will be remembered by one and all as a great man. No one can tell how many others achieved “greatness” because of his work.