Barber combines job, ministry with style

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 2, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

The Rev. John Thomas &uot;T&uot; Edwards, a barber for 45 years, has owned his own shop for more than three decades.

But the road to success wasn’t always easy.

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Edwards, 65, dropped out of the former East Suffolk High School when he was in 11th grade. When he was 16, he went to work in a &uot;white-only&uot; barbershop as a shoeshine boy.

&uot;The shop employed all black barbers and was named the Imperial Barber Shop and was located where First Virginia Bank is now located in downtown Suffolk on East Washington Street,&uot; he said. &uot;I used to observe how the barbers cut hair while I shined shoes and imagined doing the same thing one day.&uot;

Later, Edwards did become a barber. After working at Weaver’s Barber Shop on East Washington Street for two years, he went on to become more educated in his field by attending Richmond Barber College in Richmond, from 1964-1966.

He soon became employed at Community Barber Shop on Norfolk Road, which was owned by Miss Ann Willis. He worked there for 10 years.

&uot;One day she decided that she was going to go out of business and gave me first choice of buying it,&uot; said Edwards. &uot;I stayed there for eight years, sold it, and in 1985, built Mr. T’s Unisex at 806 E. Washington St. where we are still located today.&uot;

His shop employs six people: four barbers and two beauticians. Combined, the barbers have racked up more than five decades of experience. Edward Jordan has been cutting hair for 25 years; Kelvin Riddick and Dion Jordan, 12 years each; and Freddie Davis, two years. Beauticians Delores Boyette and Michele Harvey have 18 and 17 years of experience respectively.

When Edwards isn’t in the shop, he is probably performing with his gospel group, The Singing Larks. Edwards, who sings baritone, has been with the group for the past 42 years. He is also assistant manager and wardrobe coordinator for the eight-member group.

Edwards is the son of Janie Edwards and the late Ernest Edwards, and is married to the former Margaret Ann Chambliss. The couple has six children: Anthony, Wanda, Tracy, Laminica, Cornelius, and Lavonia.

Edwards is a member of Gates of Heaven COGIC, where he serves as associate minister.

Edwards said that he wants young people who dropped out of school to know that they can still be somebody, accomplish a dream and maybe one day own a business.

&uot;You are never too old to go back to school or take up a trade to obtain your goals,&uot; he said.

Name? John &uot;T&uot; Thomas Edwards.

Age? 65.

Family? Wife, Margaret; and children: Anthony, Wanda, Tracy, Cornelius, Laminica, and Lavonia.

Education? 11th-grade at the former East Suffolk High School and Richmond Barber College, 1964-1966.

Career/Occupation? Hairstylist and barber.

Volunteer/Activities? I go to different residential homes, nursing homes and hospitals to cut hair.

Favorite thing about life in Suffolk? I was born and raised in Suffolk. Although I lived in a big city for a couple of years, I came back because I love life in a small city.

Why did you pursue your chosen career? I watched older barbers in the Imperial Barber Shop when I was a teen-ager. I was always amazed at how they cut people’s hair. Later in life, I was approached by older barbers about going to school to get my barber’s license and loved it.

Favorite thing about your job? I enjoy meeting new people, working as a barber and giving them good service.

Least favorite thing about your job? When people come to get their hair cut on credit and don’t ever pay their bill.

What accomplishments are you proudest of? When I can satisfy the customers and when they give me good comments on a style or cut that I have given them.

Who or what motivates and inspires you. Younger barbers who have new ideas about cutting and styling and I can pick up these ideas from them.

Favorite way to spend your free time? Taking my wife out to dinner, shopping and singing with my group.

What words of wisdom would you like to share with others: You don’t have to give up a dream just because you may have dropped out of high school. Take up a trade in something that you are interested in and accomplish your goals.

What ingredients are in the recipe for a good life? Spend as much time in the service of the Lord as you can, be true and faithful and try to always do what’s right toward your fellow man.

If you could spend 15 minutes in the spotlight what would it be? I would sing, preach and help others in any way that would make them happy to be alive.

How do you want to be remembered in this life? I want to be remembered as a person who was always willing to help a person in any way when he or she needed it.

If you could change one thing about yourself in this life, what would it be? I’ve had everything so good I can’t think of anything that I would want to change.