Campaign to Rename San Diego Street Honors Haircare Icon and Black News Publisher Willie Morrow
Edward Henderson | California Black Media
SAN DIEGO – On Thursday, July 28, the Rev. Shane Harris of The People’s Association of Justice Advocates (PAJ) hosted a press conference in the Mt. Hope neighborhood to announce a campaign to rename Morrison Street “Willie Morrow Way.”
The campaign was set in motion to honor the late Dr. Willie Morrow, an icon in the San Diego and Black Hair care communities. Morrow, a respected businessman and inventor, was responsible for the creation of the Afro Pick and the California Curl which later became known as the Jheri Curl.
Morrow’s funeral service was held two weeks ago in front of a packed congregation of family, friends and admirers at the Bayview Church in Southeastern San Diego. Among those paying tribute to Morrow were Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber, San Diego City Council President Pro-Tem Monica Montgomery-Steppe, a number of former mayors, Congressional leaders, media executives, educators, civic leaders and faith leaders.
The announcement to rename the street was held in front of Willie Morrow’s historic two-story building that he built in 1979. It housed a barbershop, salon, San Diego’s 92.5 FM radio station and the San Diego Monitor Newspaper.
Harris believes that Morrow earned his rightful place in San Diego history because of his monumental accomplishments that brought the city national and international recognition. Harris was joined at the press announcement by Morrow’s family members and local community leaders who support his effort to rename the street in Morrow’s honor.
“Dr. Willie Morrow served this city with greatness. He is a national star and international treasure. We have a responsibility to continue the legacies of those who went above and beyond to serve our community,” Harris said.
Cheryl Morrow, Willie Morrow’s daughter, says she backs Harris’s effort to honor her father.
“If it comes to pass that future generations turn down this street as Willie Morrow Way, it should be seen as a living example of a pathway of what is required to get where you need to go and a route to get from one place to the next,” Morrow told the audience.
In 2016, the Museum at California Center for the Arts in Escondido curated an exhibit honoring Morrow and his accomplishments. The exhibit featured over 250 of Morrow’s personal effects and objects from his barbershop — from paintings to vintage hair styling equipment, and the famous red velvet barber chair he used for years.
Morrow’s barber chair hosted local Black leaders including the first Black judge in San Diego County, Judge Earl Gilliam, and even basketball hall of famer Michael Jordan as customers.
In the 70s, as Morrow’s popularity grew within the beauty industry, the US Department of Defense enlisted him to teach and cut hair on military bases and in war zones. Those experiences inspired him to write several hair styling and barbering technique books.
In order to rename the street in honor of Morrow, Harris said PAJ will circulate a petition to collect signatures from a majority of the Morrison Street residents and submit the petition to city hall for approval.
“We are going to rename Morrison Street Willie Morrow Way and we’re going to do it as quickly as possible,” said Harris.