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Celebration of life is held in San Diego for man who invented the Afro pick

Willie Morrow was many things: a father, friend, and entrepreneur, just to name a few. He was also an internationally renowned Black hair care stylist whose name became synonymous with the Afro pick.

Morrow created it after seeing a similar handmade comb a neighbor brought home from Africa. Inspired by that example, he gave us the Afro pick, a comb with long, broad bristles that are perfectly spaced to style an Afro haircut. He started mass producing the Afro pick in the 1960s.

Morrow passed away on Wednesday, June 22, in his San Diego home at the age of 82. On Friday, a celebration of life service was held in his honor at the Bayview Baptist Church of San Diego.

“Dr. Willie Morrow was the epitome of a BMW: a Black man working. He worked and he was an example of what it means to be a person involved in the community,” Gordon McKinney, a friend of Morrow's, said at Friday’s event.

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Jacob Aere
A headshot of Willie Morrow is on the front of his celebration of life program, July 15, 2022.

Morrow built and established his own California Curl business in the late 1970s on Market Street in San Diego.

The two-story building housed his barbershop, salon and publication company, where he printed a newspaper and operated a radio station.

“Dr. Morrow wanted to preserve the community. He wanted to be an epicenter for people working together through outlets like 92.5 and the Monitor Newspaper,” Pastor Steve Cooper said to the hundreds of attendees at the celebration of life.

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Jacob Aere
People gather at Bayview Baptist Church of San Diego to celebrate the life of Willie Morrow, July 15, 2022.

Morrow’s status rose over time, and he styled hair for people such as Judge Earl Gilliam, the first Black judge in San Diego County, and basketball hall of famer Michael Jordan.

The Department of Defense even enlisted Morrow to teach and cut hair on military bases and in war zones, which led to him to write several books on hair styling and barbering techniques.

According to Abdur-Rahim Hameed, he inspired many other Black entrepreneurs.

“I saw this big, black Afro pick outside of this beautiful green building. He was a young entrepreneur — he sowed a seed in me,” Hameed said.

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Jacob Aere
People enter Bayview Baptist Church of San Diego, July 15, 2022.

The Museum at California Center for the Arts in Escondido curated an exhibit to showcase Morrow’s accomplishments in 2016. Now, there’s an effort underway to get a street named in his honor.