CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY: BARBER REMEMBERS HIS ROLE IN CIVIL RIGHTS HISTORY

Tuscaloosa Barber

As WVUA 23 continues to celebrate Black History Month, we are shining the spotlight on a local barber who has been grooming gentlemen in Tuscaloosa for decades.

Thomas Linton began cutting hair in 1951. Linton said there was one grocery store in town, along with a smattering of black-owned businesses; a cleaner’s, a shoe shop. The Greene County native recalls a time when his barbershop on T.Y. Rogers Avenue was buzzing with business.

“We had so many customers when we closed at seven,” Linton said. “We had to give them a number, especially in the summertime. They stood on the outside. Back then we did not have an air conditioner. We had a fan in the window, so when I called for their number, I got to the door and called such and such number and they would come in.”

Linton started out charging $0.75 for a haircut. His clientele ranged from young to old and included several ministers such as T.Y. Rogers, who provided key leadership for the Civil Rights Movement in Tuscaloosa.

Linton himself was active in the movement. He led mass meetings at First African Baptist Church and he encouraged the city’s white leaders to hire black cashiers for the first time in stores across Tuscaloosa.

“Do you know it didn’t take long to put all those businesses out of business,” Linton said. “Well, I know there were four businesses that agreed to hire a cashier.”

Linton said he’s really enjoyed cutting hair and has seen the styles change over the years. He remembered one customer who had a special request.

“Grady Bennet brought his son down here for me to cut his hair,” Linton said. “He had a flat top. No one had ever seen a flat top. He showed me how to cut his hair flat. I cut his hair in a flat top, and everyone saw, then all the students in the high school and everywhere (came to my shop). I was the most popular barber in Tuscaloosa during that time.”

Throughout the years, the barbershop has played a pivotal role in the economic and cultural development of the black community in Tuscaloosa. While customers got a haircut, they also had a hub for sharing information with one another.

“What ever happened, you ‘d find out about it in the barbershop and people just talk about it,” Linton said. “I don’t care what it was, good or bad. You wanted to find out about what was going on, you go to the barbershop.”

Linton still cuts hair several days a week at his shop located on T.Y. Rogers Avenue in Tuscaloosa.

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