Barbering icon hangs up clippers
Richard Green had to stand on a milk crate at 9 when he started barber training at his father's Line Street shop in 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor.
At 16, in 1947, two years after World War II, he began working there, giving haircuts and shaves.
In 1973 during the Watergate scandal after his father died, Green became owner of Lee's Barber Shop.
While no one is sure when the shop opened, it's believed Lee's has been on the peninsula for more than 75 years, during major world events.
But alas, it is no longer. The black-owned family business closed on Christmas Eve.
Green, known to most as "Mr. Lee," decided it was time to lay down his clippers. The 9-year-old soon will be 80.
Daughter Susan Coley, a part-timer at the shop, said she and her father agreed that when it was time for him to retire, they would close the shop. "We kept our word."
'The Candy Man'
The shop was a fixture on Spring Street for 40 years before it moved to Ashley Avenue.
Like many black barbershops, Lee's was a meeting place where people could come and talk about family, sports, boxing, politics.
Preachers, politicians and regular folks stopped by for haircuts.
Sen. Robert Ford said when he came to Charleston in 1969 for the Hospital Strike, Green cut his hair for the seven months he was here.
"He is a tremendous guy."
Rep. Wendell Gilliard said Green, a longtime friend of his father, who also was a barber, is an icon. He went above and beyond to serve people who needed help.
"It is sad to see him close."
Green is often called "The Candy Man" because he always has a Mary Jane or a mint to offer.
And he kept his customers entertained. Children were given math problems: "If I give you an apple and I say I want an eighth of it, how much apple would I get?"
He quizzed adults on Bible verses. His favorite: John 3:16.
'Better to give …'
Family and friends said Green is a giver. He, himself, chimes in, "It is better to give than to receive."
He would give children a nickle or a dime. "Here, this will keep ghosts out of your pocket."
Green would go to hospitals and nursing homes on Sundays to give haircuts. When customers didn't have money, he extended credit.
He brought mac and cheese to the shop to feed the homeless, daughter Linda Rivers said.
A popular haircut in the '50s, '60 and '70s was the "Joe Louis," a high-top fade. Many older men requested the cut named after the boxer.
Green married his wife, Laura, 61 years ago; they have nine of their own children and one they've raised as if he were. As for grands, "too many to count," Mrs. Green said.
Damon Green calls his grandfather his hero. "He is self-employed, self-empowered, full of self-knowledge and God-fearing. Some see comic book heroes as their hero, but me, I'm lucky to have actually seen and touch mine."