LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) – A family is mourning after a longtime Louisville salon owner lost his battle with cancer.
Lee Williams, better known as Mr. Lee died over the Labor Day weekend.
Williams was the owner of Mr. Lee’s Salon, which first opened in 1973. His daughter, LeNita Milliner, held pictures showing Harvey Sloane, Louisville’s mayor at the time, getting his hair cut for the grand opening. The salon is still open at 325 W. Broadway between the Brown Hotel and the Brown Theatre.
Born and raised in Louisville, Williams served in Vietnam before moving to Detroit. That’s where he was inspired to go to cosmetology school.
Mr. Lee perfected several different popular hairstyles, including using hair relaxer and the Jheri curl. He operated several salons throughout Louisville at a time when Black business owners were rare.
“I think what touches me most is that my dad was representation for African Americans, especially for young African American men that owning your own business and being successful, even in 1972, was attainable,” Milliner said.
Milliner said Mr. Lee’s was more than just a hair salon though; it was a safe space for people to stop by, talk, and connect. That atmosphere kept clients coming for 49 years.
“When you go to a hair salon, especially a black hair salon, it takes a while. You’re getting washed, blow dried, and maybe sitting under the dryer for a while,” she explained. “In that time that you’re there, you’re sharing life experiences, you’re building relationships and that’s what people enjoy the most I think.”
Milliner said her sister plans to keep the salon on West Broadway open.
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