Willie Morrow, Inventor of the Afro Pick, Passes Away at 82

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Image: screenshot of KPBS video.

Willie Morrow, a pillar of the Black community in San Diego, who was an innovative entrepreneur who invented the Afro pick, passed away on  June 22, reports the New York Daily News. He was 82.

A memorial service will be held on July 15 at Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego.

Born Oct. 9, 1939, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, he relocated across the country seeking better opportunities in California. He would eventually settle in San Diego where he would make a name for himself.

Cheryl Morrow, his daughter, told  San Diego Union-Tribune that San Diego was a prime location for her father to begin his entrepreneurial journey.

“For many Black people from the South, San Diego became home because of military service and jobs, and my father saw an opportunity to flourish by supplying the beauty needs of African American military personnel as well as civilians, “she said. “He turned a Black hair care company into a tech-design industrial giant,” 

“He just believed in community being the source of the economy,” she added. “That you should not have to go out of your own community for the resources and wealth that you needed. It should be in your community.”

Morrow became so well-known in the area that the military hired him to teach classes in barbering and for him to give haircuts to service members on bases and war zones.

While in San Diego, he met his wife, Gloria, with whom he shared 50 years of marriage.

During the 1960s and 1970s, Morrow invented several hair products specifically designed to care for tightly-coiled and curly hair textures. One of his greatest inventions was the Afro pick which is still in usetoday. He also pioneered the California curl, more famously known as the Jheri curl. 

Morrow would use the success of his hair products business to launch a radio station and newspaper.

In 2016, Morrow was honored with an exhibit featuring his accomplishments at the Museum at California Center for the Arts in Escondido. The exhibit housed over 250 objects, “from paintings to vintage hair styling equipment as well as a diorama of Morrow’s Market Street barbershop.”

Throughout his life, he was a stalwart in the community of San Diego and a model of Black economic success.

A memorial service will be held on July 15, 2022 at Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego.

Morrow is survived by his wife, Gloria; their daughters, Cheryl and Angela; as well as many members of his extended family.

We extend our prayers and deepest condolences to the family and friends of Willie Morrow.

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