Morris & McCoy’s Tonsorial Palace closes, marking the end of an era
Barbers Willie “Nub” Norris, Willie J. Morris, and John Palmer had several things in common, including being Army veterans, a love for fishing, and enjoying serving their customers over the years. They also comprised a very fine team of “Master Barbers” who worked for many years at Morris & McCoy’s Tonsorial Palace.
By Charles Moseley
One of my fondest memories growing up was when my father would take me and my older brother to the neighborhood barbershop. The barbershop was one of the few places where Black boys were allowed to at least get a glimpse at what grown folks talked about. While we were not afforded the opportunity to chime in, we at least could get an earful of street corner philosophy as Black men discussed a variety of subjects. At the barbershop nothing ever seemed to be off limits. Whether the topic was sports, politics, or women, nothing appeared to be taboo if it was discussed in the barbershop.
Recently, one of the most popular barbershops in the area, Morris & McCoy’s Tonsorial Palace, closed its doors on Dec. 31, 2012, marking the end of an era. On that day, Willie J. Morris laid down his straight razor, turned off his clippers, and put away his scissors for the last time, ending a barbering career that spanned over half a century.
If their barbershop was known as the Tonsorial Palace then the late Douglas C. McCoy and Willie J. Morris reigned supreme.
Over those years you never knew who you might run across there. On one occasion, former NFL Hall of Fame player Rosie Grier dropped by and on another, U.S. Senator Bill Nelson also got his hair trimmed up.
Those who frequented the Tonsorial Palace not only were assured of the best in quality service at a fair price but probably gained a tidbit of know-ledge, compliments of the house.
“I’ve been slaving for 50 years. We’re retiring. Now we’re going to go ride our bicycles.”
Morris began cutting hair at The Palace Barber Shop along Northwest Fifth Avenue in the heart of what was then Fort Lauderdale’s Black business district. Ten years later, Morris and Douglas C. McCoy opened up McCoy & Morris Tonsorial Palace on Northwest Sistrunk Boulevard, where they remained for 25 years until moving to their present location at 1820 N.W. 19th Str., in 1995. Morris’s longtime partner and friend, McCoy passed away on Dec. 6, 2004, marking the end of a 34-year partnership.
Reverend Mack King Carter, Pastor Emeritus at the New Mount Olive Baptist Church in Fort Lauderdale stopped by the barbershop almost weekly over the years to engage in some comradeship with clients from the local community.
“It was friendly, family, and a way to divest yourself from stress. It was a stress-free environment. I am going to miss it.”
Dr. Dorsey Miller, a long time educator and community leader, moved here from Ocala, Fla., and has been a frequent client at the barbershop over the years.
“I’ve know the guys for the past 41 years that I’ve been here in Fort Lauderdale. It was a place where you always could find good companionship. It was a place where you could al-ways have a good conversation. We talked about politics and discussed what was going on in the community. It was good for my mental health; it was an outlook for me. I am going to miss it very much.”
East Cleveland, Ohio native Tony Sanford came down to Fort Lauderdale to visit his brother Rev. Lee Sanford in 1986. Two years later, he and wife Jeannie were married. Sanford has been coming to the barbershop ever since.
“You can’t beat the conversations, the loving atmosphere, and definitely the old school cuts. Sometimes it gets pretty deep, especially when the preachers are in the shop.”
Barber John Palmer held down two jobs, both at the barbershop and as a deputy with the Broward Sheriff’s Office in the Department of Detentions. He began cutting hair in 1970 after being encouraged by his grandfather to become a barber. He developed some tricks of the trade under the tutelage of Morris.
“He taught me how to be humble.”
Willie “Nub” Norris rounded out the trio who has worked alongside each other for several decades. The Madison, Fla. transplant joined Palmer and Morris for the last time at the end of 2012. Norris graduated from Miami Barber College in 1970 and has been a barber ever since.