Dr. Willie Morrow, publisher emeritus of the San Diego Monitor and creator of one of the most well-known symbols of Black pride, the Afro Pick, passed away at his home surrounded by family on Wednesday, June 22.
Morrow is also the creator of “California Curl,” a once-popular hair texturizer many call the forerunner to the Jheri Curl.
Born in Tuscaloosa, Ala., to a family of sharecroppers, Morrow taught himself the basics of barbering and chemistry, tools that served as the foundation to his hair care empire.
From the 1960’s to the mid-1990’s, Morrow set up his headquarters at 4165 Market Street in San Diego. The two-story building housed his barbershop, salon and publication company where he printed the San Diego Monitor newspaper and operated San Diego’s 92.5 FM radio station
“There was no voice other than the radio at the time,” said Morrow in a 2017 interview with San Diego Voice and Viewpoint newspaper. “When we first started throwing the paper, we would have mountains of them, about 15 or 20 thousand. We would throw them in every home and church in the community. Then we married the print and radio components together (with 92.5). It became the most powerful tool in the Black community.”
In the 70s, as his popularity grew within the beauty industry, the Department of Defense enlisted Morrow to teach and cut hair on military bases and in war zones, which led to him writing several hair styling and barbering technique books.
Morrow’s daughter, Cheryl Morrow, will take over the newspaper and oversee her father’s California Curl Company.
“He had the foresight not just to create the style but the service so it can enrich an industry,” said Morrow to ABC 10 News in San Diego.
“Prior to 1962, you couldn’t buy a comb exclusively for your cultural affinity,” she said. “While that whole era was going on, San Diego Black panthers had the best afros.”