Vernon Winfrey, the owner of Winfrey’s Barber Shop and the father of Talk Show Host Oprah Winfrey, passed away July 8 after battling cancer. He was 89.
Although his daughter built a media empire, it was Vernon who was famous in his East Nashville neighborhood where he cut hair for more than 50 years. He even had a street in the community named for him.
Vernon operated the historic Winfrey Beauty Shop prior to opening Winfrey’s Barbershop in 1965. Winfrey also served as a city councilman for 16 years, and had a role in the 2003 film Charlie’s War.
His red brick barbershop had maroon awnings and was the kind of place where patrons entertained one another with stories on long afternoons. “No one enters or leaves without a hello and a handshake,” Vernon once was quoted in a profile in Tennessean.
“I offer my deepest condolences to the family of Vernon Winfrey. Vernon served on Metro Council for 16 years and dedicated his life to entrepreneurship, barbering and mentoring young men in the community,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said on Twitter. “An army veteran and deacon, he leaves behind a legacy of service.”
Oprah Winfrey honored her father July 4th before his passing with a backyard family get-together, which she documented with a few posts on her Instagram account.
“So, we’ve been planning a backyard barbeque that’s actually more than a backyard barbeque—it’s Vernon Winfrey Appreciation Day,” she tells her friend Gayle King in one of the reels. “Because my father is ill, we wanted to be able to have all of his friends come and celebrate him while he’s able to receive the joy.”
Oprah’s friend and gospel singer Wintley Phipps saluted Vernon with a song. “He felt the love and reveled in it until he could no longer speak,” Oprah said.
She concluded the video by showing Vernon enjoying the celebration from the comfort of a barber chair. “My dad is a barber, so we put him in the barber chair,” she says. “Giving my father his flowers while he’s still well enough to smell them. Happy 4th of July as you gather with your family and friends. Remember to celebrate each other.”
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