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Master Barber & Purple Heart Recipient The Late James Guilford Honored At The March 3, 2016 Breakfast
He was a barber to the stars, and won a Purple Heart during World War II. He lived to be 104 years old before passing away last December 2015. We will the late James Guildford, Jr. at the March 3, 2016 Black History Breakfast. Lest we forget....
Article Source: The Boston Globe
by Byran Marquard
A master barber, James E. Guilford Jr. was a stylist to stars of a storied era in Boston jazz, when a shave and a trim cost barely a buck at his Tremont Street shop. He could also spin stories as elegant as the fine lines that filled his sketchpads after he traded scissors and razor for the pen and a paintbrush of an artist later in life.
Mr. Guilford, who died in December 2015 at 104, liked to tell how singer Billie Holiday performed a run of shows at Boston’s famed Storyville club in April 1959 “and gave beautiful performances. I was there every night.” After Holiday’s Saturday show, less than three months before she died, a party was thrown in her honor at another Boston club and “I drove her from Storyville in my Cadillac,” he recalled in a 2005 Globe interview.
“She was wearing all black. Her lips were black and her nails were black. We were sitting at a table with about 10 people having cheese and crackers, and they wanted her to sing, and she says to me, ‘Jimmy, what do you want to hear?’ I said, ‘Well, “Lover Man,” ’ and she got up, took the mike, and sang it right next to where she’d been sitting.”
A Roxbury resident since birth, Mr. Guilford was the oldest living graduate of Boston Latin School when he died in the Laurel Ridge care facility in Jamaica Plain after his health failed.
He began barbering at age 12, cutting hair from 1923 to 1979, and he was awarded the Purple Heart after being injured while serving as an Army sergeant during World War II. When the war ended, he returned to his Roxbury barbershop.
“People who were traveling could always come to Boston if they wanted their hair done and have a do. They could come to Jimmy Guilford’s hairstyling salon,” he said in an interview for the WGBH program “Basic Black.”
“I had acquired quite a name where I was called ‘the hairstylist to the stars,’ ” Mr. Guilford said. “In my business were such stars as Sugar Ray Robinson and Duke Ellington. Nat Cole and Oscar Peterson. I even did Sammy Davis’s father, but Sammy, he did his own hair. A lot of show people that came to Boston came to me.”
Over the years he also sold real estate before devoting much of his time to art. His portrait of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was unveiled in January 1982 in the Central Square branch of the Cambridge Public Library, when Mr. Guilford was 70.
“I think the creative part that comes along with being a hairstylist started to express itself on canvas,” said his daughter Marsha Guilford Davenport of Owings Mills, Md. “My home is filled with his artwork. He’s worked in every medium – charcoal, acrylic, watercolors, oil. He even does pen and ink sketches. Art is just something that blossomed in him.”
One of four children, James Edward Guilford Jr. was born Oct. 7, 1911, in a third-floor apartment in Roxbury. “He would tell you he grew up in what they called a cold water flat,” his daughter said.
His father, James Sr., was from Petersburg, Va. His mother, the former Nannie Belle Haskins, was from Lynchburg, Va.
At Boston Latin, Mr. Guilford was the only African-American on the track team in 1926 and was part of a relay squad that set a record while defeating Boston English in late March. His teammate fell behind on the first leg, “but on the back stretch of the second lap James Guilford of Latin passed M.I.
Linsky of English and handed over a four-yard margin,” the Globe reported. Latin’s anchor runner held on to win by inches.
The Black History Month Breakfast will be held on Thursday March 3, 2016 at the Boston Colonnade Hotel from 8:30 am to 11:00 am.
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