By Dr. William Tayari Howard, Contributing Writer
Dr. Willie L. Morrow, a global icon, pioneer, author, chemist, publisher, and community activist passed away Wednesday, June 22nd, 2022 in his home surrounded by family. He was 82 years old.
Local television stations and social media outlets immediately lit up with condolences to the family and accolades towards his accomplishments.
Noted for turning the “impossible” into the “possible,” Dr. Morrow left a plethora of inventions, textbooks, celebrity, political, and global relationships far too numerous to name.
However, some stand out as exceeding a nation’s expectations and will probably never be duplicated by an African American again.
He is listed in history and hair books as one of the top seven hair care pioneers such as Annie Turnbo Malone, Madam C. J. Walker, Marjorie Stewart Joyner, Art Dyson, Garrett Morgan, and Joe L. Dudley, Sr.
Dr. Morrow is the only African American to receive a Department of Defense contract to teach military barbers around the world how to cut, shape, and style black hair.
Dr. Morrow’s legacy, the California Curl Company, a multi-business organization focused on publishing, media, and hair styling in order to provide information and resources to the San Diego minority community via textbooks, newspapers, and radio.
He built a laboratory for the formation and creation of black hair care products like the ‘California Curl’ and the Afro Pic.
He collected a huge amount of antique hair tools, from curling irons to thermal ovens and set up traveling exhibits around the country displaying these items as a part of Black History.
His training facility offered high school students the first opportunity to be mentored by broadcast professionals and give an inside look into journalism from a minority perspective. The courses offered were sanctioned by San Diego City schools.
His Morrows Unlimited building served as a central meeting place for the clergy and various celebrities.
His barbershop was one of the first San Diego Chargers offsite ticket offices which attracted star players.
He cultivated relationships such as his friendship with coveted painter Ernie Barnes, a defensive end for the San Diego Chargers whose painting of “The Sugar Shack” became the cover of Marvin Gaye’s 14th studio album. He attracted other star players like Michael Jordan and Willie McCovey to his personal barber chair.
His empire became one of the largest employers of African Americans in San Diego.
His procurement of XHRM 92.5 FM, a 50,000 watt powerhouse radio station broadcasted from Tijuana, Mexico to Los Angeles County offering Black Music that educated, entertained, raised the minority self-esteem, and promoted Black History and culture throughout California.
Not to be outdone by his own media outlets, Dr. Morrow has been featured in major national magazines such as Ebony in 1970, Jet in 1971, and major newspapers like the New York Times.
Born in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to sharecroppers, Dr. Morrow never forgot where he came from and was not only a community activist but later formed ‘The Black Business Bootcamp’ in an effort to share his successes in entrepreneurship to those interested in starting small businesses.
Many of his patented hair products are still available today as well as inventions like the Afro Pic and Blow Dry nozzles.
Dr. Morrow is survived by his wife Gloria, and two daughters, Cheryl and Angela.