Junior Byrd: ‘A good man, a good friend’

Published 10:54 pm Thursday, March 6, 2014

The death of Junior Byrd on Tuesday brought an end to an era.

Byrd was the last of the old-time barbers in Troy – the barbers from the “shave and a hair cut, two bits” era.

Byrd’s Unisex shop on South Brundidge Street maintained much of the ambiance of the barbershops of old, but it was Junior Byrd who added the flavor to the shop.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Ask “Byrd,” as most people called him, how old he was and he would cock his head, think a bit and say, “Well, not as old as dirt.”

Henry Louie “H.L.” Byrd Jr. was a chip off the old block, said Raymond Ledford, who barbered with Byrd for 18 years.

H.L. “Pop” Byrd, Sr. barbered in Troy for many years and Junior inherited the gift for gab and “likeability” from his dad, Ledford said.

“I went to work for Junior Byrd in 1960,” Ledford said. “I was still in high school but I already knew how to cut hair. I’d learned at the Children’s Home. Byrd just put the finishing touches on me.”

Junior Byrd could have put an early end to Ledford’s career as a barber and any other barber probably would have.

“I’d just started working for Byrd, and I went deer hunting down south of Troy,” Ledford said. “Byrd closed his shop on Wednesdays so I was off, but I was supposed to be back at work on Thursday.”

Ledford decided to skip work and keep hunting.

“That wasn’t smart, but I killed a buck and I was happy,” he said. “Friday morning, I went in to work and said, ‘How you doing’ to Byrd but he was awful cool to me. Didn’t say hardly a word all day long. The next morning I went in and asked Byrd how he was doing and he did me the same way. So, I said, ‘Byrd, I brought you a big ol’ deer steak, how would you like that?’ He said that, yeah, he would, and he got to smiling. After that, things were good between me and him again.”

Some time later, Ledford said he thanked Byrd for not firing him that day he stayed out of work to hunt.

“He probably should have fired me but he didn’t, and I really appreciated that,” Ledford said. “That’s just the kind of man Junior Byrd was. You don’t work with a man 18 years and not know what kind of person he is.”

Ledford said Byrd loved his work and he loved his customers.

“He would have worked seven days a week if one of them had not been Sunday,” Ledford said. “He enjoyed work that much.”

Byrd was a man of strong faith and come Sunday he was going to be in church.

“Byrd had a great voice,” Ledford said. “He could sing as good or maybe better than George Beverly Shea.”

Byrd sang in a gospel quartet and he was the choir director at several churches including Southside Baptist Church in Troy and Springfield Baptist Church and Salem Baptist in Brundidge.

Ledford said Byrd was not a singing barber but he did like to joke around and tease his customers.

“When one of our customers was sick, not anything serious, Byrd would take a song book and me and him and ‘Pale’ Smith would go to see him. We’d say that we’d come to pick out the hymns for his funeral. We’d get a lot of laughs out of that. Byrd liked to laugh and joke around.

“But he helped folks all the time, too. Folks didn’t know what all he did and he didn’t want them to know.

“Men liked to go in his shop and sit and talk. They would get their hair cut when it needed it but, other times, they just came in because they liked being around Byrd. He was a real character.”

Junior Byrd was an excellent barber. He was an outstanding singer but most of all he was a good, God-fearing man who loved life, his family and his friends and they loved him back, Ledford said.

“We’ll all miss Byrd. He was a good man and a good friend.”