During January 2019, Jake Williams celebrated his 60th year anniversary as a Master Barber in the Savannah community. Unfortunately, health challenges forced him into retirement.
When Williams was contemplating on career options, he remembered what his father said, “pick one profession and stick with it.” Those words of wisdom influenced him in his decision to become a professional barber.
Williams studied barbering at the Area Trade School of Denmark, SC (now Denmark Technical College), and began his barbering career as an Apprentice with Lampkin’s Barber Shop on West Broad Street in 1959. He worked tirelessly to learn the techniques of barbering, the skills required to successfully manage a business, and how to retain and increase his clientele. Williams worked for Lampkin’s Barber Shop twelve (12) years before opening his own barber shop.
On January 4, 1971, Williams opened and began operating “Jake Williams Modernistic Barber Shop” at 1104 Montgomery Street. In 1973, he purchased the building because he thought it was better to be a property owner than a tenant. During the past sixty (60) years, Williams has cut literally thousands of heads of hair, from elected officials and pastors, to nationally known personalities, from great-great granddads to their great-great grandsons. There are many barbers who can say they studied under Williams or worked in his shop while trying to get established in the field of barbering.
During the latter years, Williams worked alone; taking care of his clients four (4) days a week. Services offered included men and boys’ haircuts, razor and clipper shaves, shampoos, facials, and hair coloring. Limited services were offered to women. He also provided services to clients who were homebound or hospitalized.
Williams gave advice, offered constructive criticism, and showed his clients and children around the neighborhood, an example of responsibility, integrity, and professionalism. Williams was often asked why he wore a suit to work, or a shirt and tie. He would reply, “because I’m a professional, and I run a professional business.”
Giving instruction is good, but Williams believed it was more important to be an example to others. Williams was the epitome of leadership, professionalism, character, and integrity; and he continued to make a positive impact on the Savannah community before his health declined. His influence on his family, friends and the countless people he met and worked with, will live in perpetuity. A barber for 60 years and a successful African-American business owner for 48 years, Williams exemplified stability and perseverance that is extraordinary. He is a Savannah icon.
Williams received many awards and commendations during his career, including the “Spirit of Excellence – 2009 Business of the Year Award,” appointed Lieutenant Colonel, Aide De Camp, Governor’s Staff by Governor Joe Frank Harris on January 13, 1987; the Outstanding Georgia Citizen “Outstanding Georgia Barber” award from Secretary of State Max Cleland on January 10, 1991; the Outstanding Georgia Citizen award from Secretary of State Brian Kemp on February 4, 2010; as well as special recognitions from Chatham County, GA and the City of Savannah. He was also featured in the Savannah Morning News and The Savannah Tribune.
Williams was a kind and gentle soul. He never liked conflict or confusion and would not engage in such issues. He was patient, understanding, open and supportive. He was a wonderful husband, a loving and caring father to all his children, and a person who sincerely loved and cared about his family and friends.
Williams remained hopeful, and never lost his sense of humor during his illness. He lost his battle with cancer on November 25, 2020. And although this part of his journey is over, he leaves all of us who knew him, better than we were, and blessed by the privilege of having him in our lives. He will be deeply missed by his family and friends.
Thursday, December 3,
Time: 12 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Sylvania Funeral Home
Savannah, Inc. 102 Owens Industrial Drive,
Savannah, GA 31405
Friday, December 4, 2020
Where: Beaufort National
Cemetery, 1601 Boundary
Street, Beaufort, SC
Expressions of sympathy may be sent to:
14706 Coffee Bluff Road
Savannah, GA 31419