Muhammad Ali Visits Graham’s Barber Shop — ca. 1967
Muhammad Ali in a Dallas barber chair
by Paula Bosse
I often just browse through the ads of old Dallas high school yearbooks on Ancestry.com. The other day, I saw the photo above and stopped and said to myself, “Is that Muhammad Ali?” I then looked at the text and, yes, that was, in fact, Muhammad Ali. Sitting in a barber chair in Dallas, Texas. What was the story behind that?
In my less-than-extensive research, I found two instances of Ali being in Dallas before 1967 (the year of this Lincoln High School yearbook ad). The first was in November 1960, just one month after the 18-year-old Olympic champion had won his first professional fight. He was tagging along with Archie Moore (who was acting as something of a mentor) when Moore came to Dallas to fight local boxer Willie Morris. (Morris had lost to the then Cassius Clay in the Olympic trials, and, in a somewhat bitter interview with The Dallas Morning News said this about the young upstart: “He’s not near as good as all this talk about him.”)
The photo of Ali in the barber chair isn’t from this 1960 visit, but he was specifically mentioned in a Dallas Times Herald article as being in the crowd of a Nov. 1960 event I wrote about a few years ago. There’s film footage of this, and I’ve scanned the crowds, hoping to find him, with no luck. But if you want to look to see if you can find him, that footage is linked in the Flashback Dallas post “Newly Discovered Footage of Jack Ruby — 1960.”
It’s more likely that the barber shop photo was taken in March 1967 when Ali, a Muslim, came to Dallas to “preach” at Muhammad’s Mosque of Islam, described by Dallas Morning News sportswriter Bob St. John as being housed in “an old, pinkish building which used to belong to an insurance company and heretofore rested in reasonable obscurity on the corner across from Booker T. Washington High School.”
St. John continued about Ali’s March 26, 1967 appearance in Dallas: “On Sunday afternoon, it was no longer obscure. The old building rocked from its foundation as people filled it and lined the sidewalk outside and even poured into the streets, some coming to see Cassius Clay and others Muhammad Ali….”
The article mentions that Ali was living in Houston at the time, so it’s certainly possible he visited Dallas more often, but he was so famous at this time that it seems likely that the mere hint of his charismatic presence in town would have shown up in the papers. As it was, a visit by him to a Dallas barber shop was memorialized in this ad, which someone like me can now write about in a vaguely historical way (on a day which just happens to be Easter Sunday, 56 Easters after Muhammad Ali’s Islamic sermon across from Booker T. Washington High School).
“Muhammad Ali a Customer of Graham’s Barber Shop.” Ali is shown with an unidentified Graham’s customer, Jimmie Malone, Marie Cook, Althea Kimbrough, a customer, barber William Schufford, manager John Coleman, and two other customers.
The photo above also appeared in the ad, showcasing Graham’s community service and his work with the Kennedy Foundation. “Enjoy the free services of Graham Barbers. The barbers from left to right: Verbie Marrow, Lillie Hudson Brim, Willie Schufford, Emanuel Phillips, Supervisor, and customers.”
Johnny Graham was one of the most successful Black businessmen in Dallas at the time and was known for his philanthropic generosity. By the end of 1967, he owned eight barber shops and employed 135 barbers. Six of his shops are listed in the 1967 directory:
1967 Dallas directory
Sources & Notes
Photos are from an ad in the 1967 Lincoln High School yearbook.
The Dallas Morning News articles about Muhammad Ali in Dallas — and one about Johnny Graham:
- “Morris Prefers Bout with Clay” (DMN, Nov. 26, 1960)
- “Clay Makes Dallas Stop” by Bob St. John (DMN, Mar. 27, 1967)
- “Johnny Graham Offers Example” by Julia Scott Reed (DMN, Dec. 28, 1967)
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