Wheeler Coleman on far right stands with family members of the Coleman brothers at June 14 ceremony.Photos: Haroon Rajaee

Celebrating the iconic Chicago barbers, businessmen and mentors

CHICAGO—In a touching ceremony, the Woodlawn neighborhood in Chicago honored the legacy of the Coleman Brothers Barbershop, one of whom was the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan’s barber.

The event, marked by food, music, and statements from family and friends, included Woodlawn’s current and former council members, friends, former customers, and family from Texas, the Carolinas, and other states.

Daniel Mitchell, a family member

They celebrated the naming of a street after the trailblazing siblings, Richard E. Coleman, who passed away in June 2016, and James G. Coleman, who passed in May 2018.

Wheeler Coleman, son of James, and the two matriarchs of the family, recently unveiled the sign reading “Honorary Coleman Brothers Way.”


“I’m so excited that my brothers are being honored here. I had eight brothers, and I came next to the baby. Richard was the baby, and I was the only girl,” said Annette Coleman Hammond, 92, the last living sibling of the Coleman brothers.

“It’s a celebration of my husband for my children, but especially my grandkids. My kids knew their father, but some of my grandkids didn’t get to know him,” said Bettye Coleman, 87, widow of Richard Coleman. “He was a great father, great provider, and he was well-loved by his family.”

The two brothers groomed the heads of people from all walks of life, including professional athletes, politicians, entertainers, professionals, blue-collar workers, educators, and those from the bottom of the economic ladder. “Muhammad Ali and (the Honorable) Elijah Muhammad would come here on occasion,” recalled Wheeler Coleman, son of James Coleman.

The ceremony was capped off by a heartfelt message from the Honorable Minister Louis Farrakhan, read by Arthur Muhammad who spoke to The Final Call moments before reading the statement.

Reggie Coleman, son of Richard Coleman

“I’m so grateful and thankful to stand on the shoulders of two giants. Only Allah (God) could have arranged this, to have it this way where the Minister and the Most Honorable Elijah Muhammad’s former barber and I’m now in that position. Second generation and keeping the legacy going,” said Arthur Muhammad.

“James and Richard Coleman were masters of barbershop rhetoric and culture. As a duo, they produced a barbershop that was a place of joy, happiness, and argument that did not evolve into fighting but evolved into people who had love and respect for each other,” said Arthur Muhammad, reading the words of Minister Farrakhan at the ceremony.

“The barbershop was a haven for mothers to bring their children. From what I knew of Brother Richard as one of his clients, I chose him to be my hero because he took the profession of barbering to the highest level of service that one could achieve,” he continued from the Minister’s statement. “He nurtured young people, helped some go through school, and helped others with their marriages and their problems.”

Indeed, the barbershop, founded by James and Richard Coleman, quickly became an institution, a place where haircuts were accompanied by wisdom and humor. “If my dad was here today, he would be crying, and it would be tears of joy,” said Wheeler Coleman, reflecting on the profound impact his father and uncle had on the neighborhood.

“When people would come into the shop, he would greet them as if they were the best of friends. He said, ‘Come on in, my good friend.’ I’d say, ‘Daddy, where do you know him from?’ ‘This my first time seeing him,’ he would say.”

During the ceremony, Wheeler Coleman recounted a poignant story about a customer who became a police officer, crediting James Coleman with steering him away from a troubled path. “He said, ‘Wheeler, you don’t understand how this man impacted my life,’” Wheeler Coleman recounted.

From left: Arthur Muhammad; LeRoy Young; Wheeler Coleman, son of James Coleman and current
owner; Alderman Desmond Yancy, 5th Ward; Reggie Coleman, son of Richard Coleman; Brandi Lewis
and Antonio Arthur.

“For this man to cry harder on my dad’s death than I did just tells you the impact that the Coleman brothers had. My dad used to tell him, ‘Son, you’re hanging out with the wrong kids.’ He gave him money and support, even helping him go to college.”

From left: Wheeler Coleman, Arthur Muhammad, and Richard Coleman Jr.

Richard Coleman’s son, Reggie, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the blend of education and entertainment that characterized visits to the barbershop. “Every time I came to the shop to get a haircut, I would always think, ‘What am I gonna hear funny today?’” Reggie Coleman said. “When you walked into that barbershop, you got an education.”

The Coleman brothers’ journey from the Deep South of Alabama to Chicago is a testament to their resilience and vision. Migrating during the Great Migration of 1955 and after serving in the military, James G. Coleman and Richard E. Coleman pursued their passion at McCoy Barber College, eventually establishing their iconic business 60 years ago.

“It was eight brothers. All eight served in the military. One brother came to Chicago where their uncle was, and four others followed. One brother opened a lounge then a barbershop.”

Over the years, the five-chair barbershop, complete with a shoeshine stand and manicurist desk, became a vibrant community hub. James and Richard Coleman’s influence extended far beyond haircuts; they fostered a space of mentorship, support, and camaraderie.

The ceremony not only celebrates the Coleman brothers’ contributions but also enshrines their legacy within the very fabric of Woodlawn. Hopefully, the June 14 street naming, will ensure their spirit continues to inspire future generations.

Wheeler Coleman with other family members of the Coleman brothers.

“I had a standing appointment with Richard Earl Coleman for 5 a.m. every Saturday morning, and whenever Minister (Farrakhan) needed him, he’d call me and say, ‘Ed, I can’t make the appointment, I gotta go see the Minister.’ And I’d just say OK. I understood every time,” shared a longtime customer.

“This day is amazing because granddad is a pioneer of the community. He’s a staple who showed you can be Black and own a business. Everybody loved him, and it’s only right that we come out to show how thankful we are,” said Belynzia Coleman, granddaughter of Richard.

The unveiling ceremony took place at the corner of 68th Street and Stony Island Avenue, where the barbershop has stood as a community cornerstone since 1963.

The barbershop is now owned by Wheeler Coleman and managed by Arthur Muhammad, master barber and barber instructor. Arthur Muhammad leads the second wave of barbers, including Antonio Arthur, LeRoy Young, Brandi Paschal, and Arthur’s daughter, Arafa Muhammad.