Warren Lewis: Passing the Torch - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Reported by Ben Watson

Warren Lewis: Passing the Torch

Burning hair is a complicated skill that provides more than just an income for Warren Lewis...it's also his claim to fame.

Lewis has been around the world to showcase his talents, but it's at a barbershop in north Memphis where the hard work really happens...and mistakes sometimes happen!

"The guy had long hair, and I had some flammable chemicals on his head," Lewis said. "It just blazed up real fast and so I put him out."

Lewis developed his hair burning skills on a farm in Mississippi.  Back then, he used burning corn stalks to clean feather particles off of chickens prepared for cooking.

Now he uses those stalks to burn hair on human heads.  He's been doing it for 50 years, and now that he's turned 75, Lewis is looking for a way to pass on his legacy.

"I plan to retire as soon as possible," he said. "If I can just find somebody to lighten the load and I can phase on out. I just can't stop all of a sudden because I got too much riding on my coat tails."

Lewis plans to use the time off to continue improving conditions in his north Memphis community.  His community activism began in the 1960's when he started playing drums.  That love of music led to him meeting Isaac Hayes and becoming the barber for many stars at Stax.

Lewis later teamed up with Hayes to form the Black Knights, a community improvement association that helped needy families with food, clothing and other necessities.

Now, he says, it's time for someone else to step up to the plate.

"If somebody else joins me on the next block and do their duty, and the next block, and the next block, that's the way it's gonna have to happen. Right in the corner where you are," he said.

As for retirement, Lewis has not set a specific date, but he is looking for someone to take the torch and take over his north Memphis barber shop.

"My legacy needs to go on even if I'm not cutting hair," he said. "I need some relief, 'cause I ain't been off work in 50 years!"

If you would like to talk about Lewis, or wish him well, we welcome you to leave a comment at the bottom of this story.

Click here to send an email to Ben Watson.

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