From segregation to record breaking: Mid-South stylist shares success story

Eunice Boddie as a young woman (Source: Eunice Boddie)
Eunice Boddie as a young woman (Source: Eunice Boddie)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Hair stylist Eunice Boddie, 83, was the first African American woman to ever be a beautician at Gould's Salon & Spa. She said through perseverance and determination, she overcame racial discrimination to make her dream come true.

For 62 years, Boddie has worked at Gould's Salon. The 83-year-old hair dresser made history when she walked into the salon back in the 1950s.

"I was his first black hair dresser…to ever stand behind a chair, " Boddie said.

But that role did not come easy. Boddie said before she ever stepped foot in a Gould's salon, she started her first job as a maid during harsh times of high discrimination in the United States. Back when Jim Crow was still the law, she was required to stay in the back of every public facility. At that time, cleaning houses was the only job she was allowed to do.

Until one day, her boss gave her the chance of a lifetime.

"After like three months, he said, 'Do you intend to sweep with a broom every day?' I said 'No.' He said, 'Well why don't you go to beauty school?'" she explained. " I said, 'I don't have the money.' He said, 'Find you a school to get in, and I'll pay for it and you pay me back.'"

Immediately after graduating beauty school in the 1950s, she worked at Gould's as a shampoo assistant. But even that small role had to be done in secret.

"So he began to let me shampoo on the side, he said if an inspector ever walks in, you just grab a broom. That was in the late 50s and 60s," she said.

After more than six decades of employment there, she called this salon her second home and the workers her new family. Boddie is trained to work on all types of hair for men, women, and children.

After all these years, she said she still works because she loves it.

Her advice to others was to never give up on a dream and always be grateful for what you're given.

"My father always told us, growing up as children, if you ever feel like you're going to win, don't quit. And don't ever use the word can't," Boddie said. "This is a gift God gave me. If you don't use, it you'll lose it, so I'm using it to the best of my ability, right today...and I'm not tired yet."

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