Earl Reynolds Jr. tells his daughter, Ashley, about meeting James Brown at his father’s barbershop in Roanoke, Virginia.
Earl B Reynolds (EBR): He immediately walked over to my dad’s barbershop, and he just started shaking hands and talking to people. And he looked down at me and he said, ”You must be the boot black.” In barbershop vernacular, that is, ”You shine shoes.” And he said, ”Well come on back here and shine my shoes.”
Of course his shoes were already shined; he was immaculate from head to toe. So I went through the process of re-shining his shoes, and he got off the shoeshine stand and he handed me a five-dollar bill. And he told me that back in his hometown, he started out shining shoes. He said, ”It’s an honorable profession, it’s good work, you just need to think about now what else you want to do with your life.”
That was my first step along to my education. I know that your Granddaddy was counting on me to take over the barbershop. I’m his son—his only son—and he was grooming me for that. But, uh, one day I had this big announcement to make to your Granddaddy that I wanted to go to college and not take over the barbershop. So I finally got the nerve to talk to him about it, and for months your Granddaddy did not speak to me, that’s how big his disappointment was. I applied to colleges and universities on my own, I had to learn how to fill out forms on my own, and I got a letter from Fayetteville State Teacher’s College in Fayetteville, North Carolina saying that ”We’d like for you to come.”
I remember, uh, piling into your Uncle James’ station wagon, and they took me down there and dropped me off, and I watched them drive away. And I said, ”Okay now what are you gonna do?”
I was fortunate to graduate at the top of my class, and Granddaddy came to graduation. Well, as you know, one of his famous sayings was ”life is a process of adjustment.”
So when your late grandma told me he was coming, I knew that we had reconciled. We had finally bridged that gap.