Waco hairdresser “Mr. H” says goodbye after 55-year career

Longtime Waco barber Henry Williams came to a harsh realization in May.

During a routine haircut, the 83-year-old noticed that his eyesight had deteriorated and he knew that his days of cutting hair were numbered.

“I realized I couldn’t see that hair,” Williams said. “I knew it was time to give it up.”

Mr H Barber

Henry Williams’ career as a barber began in Dallas in the 1960s before moving to Waco in 1984, where he has remained ever since, tending to regular customers, offering free haircuts to those in need and mentoring young barbers, including Rocko Bolts, from a sit-down position. After 55 years, Williams recently decided to hang up the clippers, and family and friends will celebrate his retirement this weekend.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

But knowing it was necessary didn’t make it easy for Williams to leave the chair and start a new chapter. He said his heart wasn’t ready to end his 55-year career, but his health left him no other choice. Williams also began kidney dialysis this summer.

“I like cutting hair and talking to people,” said Williams, who got his barber’s license in 1969. “People bring all their problems to the barber. … Sometimes we (my clients and I) cry a lot together. We’re pretty close.”

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Williams, best known as “Mr. H,” has used thousands of neck strips over the past five decades, including nearly 40 years in Waco. Williams opened Mr. H’s Barbershop, a popular shop on Faulkner Lane in East Waco, in 1985 before becoming what he described as a “community barber” in 1991.

From then until May, Williams traveled throughout Waco, cutting hair for free to people in nursing homes or hospitals, as well as people who were homebound because of illness.

“I would go anywhere I could,” Williams said.

Leaving Mr. H’s Barbershop didn’t stop Williams from cutting hair for his loyal customers. He said those bonds are what he values ​​most about the job, besides the money.

“Now I’m retired and some of them still call me and ask how I’m doing,” Williams said. “I miss a lot of my customers and I imagine they miss me too.”

But cutting hair wasn’t Williams’ only concern. He said he wanted to be a role model in the community and do whatever he could to help the next generation.

He counts Waco native Rocko Bolts among the people he has inspired. Bolts, now the 34-year-old owner of RocMyStyle barbershop, 200 Hillsboro Drive, said he bought his first barber chair from Williams and is grateful to Williams for helping him start his journey 14 years ago.

Mr H Barber

Rocko Bolts smiles as he looks through some photos of Henry Williams from his 55-year career with one of Williams’ daughters, Shenequa. Williams sold Bolts his first barber chair 14 years ago and now operates RocMyStyle, 200 Hillsboro Drive.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

“We go to the same church. He came up to me and told me he wanted to show me something he had,” Bolts said. “So I went to his house, he showed me around and showed me the barber’s chair. And he sold it to me for a pretty good price, and it was an antique, so it wasn’t a regular barber’s chair. It was a sturdy barber’s chair.”

Bolts said that gesture in 2010 helped him get to where he is today. He said he doesn’t take it for granted and hopes to pay it forward.

“I find it inspiring because it gives me an idea of ​​what I need to do for the next generation,” Bolts said. “I know what it felt like to have someone support me when I was starting out. It makes me want to support the next person.”

Mr H Barber

Rocko Bolts, owner of RocMyStyle, 200 Hillsboro Drive, is one of the young barbers Henry Williams inspired during his 55-year career, and Bolts said he hopes to pass on the kindness Williams showed him.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

Williams said he enjoyed knowing that many people “wanted to be a hairdresser because I was a hairdresser.” He attributed this to the fact that he spent 55 years in the profession and had the opportunity to get to know three generations of one family.

Looking back on his career, Williams says he will never forget how he got his start cutting hair. Barbering ran in his family, but he himself didn’t start plugging in the clippers until the mid-1960s when he got tired of paying for haircuts for himself and his three sons, who tragically have all passed away.

“Times were really tough at the time, so I came up with the idea of ​​cutting my boys’ hair,” Williams said. “So I went to Sears in Dallas and bought a pair of clippers. And I cut a style of hair we call an ‘onion.'”

Williams then obtained his barber’s license and worked at Graham’s Barber Shops and Lee’s Barber Shop in the 1970s, where he made a name for himself cutting the hair of several famous Dallas Cowboys players.

“We had Rayfield (Wright), Jeff Rohrer, Bob Hayes, (Thomas) Henderson. All these old guys came into our barbershop,” Williams said. “And I had the pleasure of cutting Pettis Norman’s hair.”

Mr H Barber

Henry Williams (center) stands with his two daughters, Shenequa (left) and Sherry (right). Shenequa invites the community to join them in celebrating her father’s retirement on Sunday from 2 to 6 p.m. at the Bellmead Civic Center.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald

Williams moved to Waco in 1984 and hasn’t left since. His two daughters, Shenequa and Sherry, are helping him navigate his retirement. However, they aren’t letting their father step down from his position just yet, but are inviting the community to a farewell party for the longtime barber.

The event will take place from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday at the Bellmead Civic Center, and Shenequa said anyone who wants to support Williams on his retirement journey is welcome to come along.

Mr H Barber

Henry Williams received his barber’s license in 1969 and finally decided to hang up the clippers in May, crowning a 55-year career.

Rod Aydelotte, Tribune-Herald