A cut above
[subtitle]Celebration set to mark female Crump Jefferson retirement[/subtitle]
By Claudia McInnis Anderson
Special to the Outlook
When it comes to barbering, Etta Ruth Crump Jefferson is a cut above. After more than 53 years of cutting hair in Tallahassee, Jefferson will hang up her clippers and retire at the end of this month. A celebration in her honor will be held Saturday, May 28, starting with a special commemorative ceremony from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. and a reception afterwards from 3:30 – 8:30 p.m. in the commons area besides Dickey’s Barbershop, located at 315 North Macomb Street in Tallahassee.
Many—customers and colleagues—have come to love Jefferson. They all agree she has special talents and a unique personality unlike any other. “She’s down-to-earth and can relate to anyone—even the youth. She likes to laugh and is high fashion. I’ve picked up some style tips from her,” says Rashod “Goat” Akinsanya, who works alongside Jefferson in Dickey’s Barbershop. “You can just tell that she’s comfortable in a barbershop. She’s cool with me.”
Jefferson, daughter of the late Elmer and Carrie Crump, first began working in Your Way Barbershop under the supervision of owners Perman Arnold and Solomon Dennis. As the first Black female barber to work in a shop surrounded by all males, Jefferson recalls many people often questioned Arnold about his motives for hiring her. “He would always say, ‘We wanted something that no one else had in Tallahassee.’”
Arnold and all others in the shop treated her with the utmost respect and she honed her skills and learned from them. “The owners acted professionally and required everyone else to do the same. They came to work every day dressed in slacks, a shirt and a tie,” Jefferson remembers, “And I had to wear nice clothes too.”
Despite criticism and questions about having a female employee, Arnold never wavered or buckled under the pressure, and Jefferson eventually became an essential member of the staff. She worked at Your Way Barbershop for 40 years but left after Arnold and Dennis died.
Jefferson took her chosen profession very seriously. “I always sought ways to get better. I observed what others did—especially if they did it well, and I tried to keep up with the trends of the times,” she said.
Over the years, Jefferson has received many accolades for her contributions to the industry. Some include: holding various offices within the Barber Association of Florida; hosting the most well-attended State Barbering Board Meeting in Tallahassee at Florida A and M University; holding various offices in the local Barber Association of Tallahassee; recognition for 40 years of dedicated service within the Barbering Profession, awarded by the late Sylvester “Doc” Beckwith, owner of Doc’s One and Two Stop Barbershop, and the Frenchtown Legacy Award for 50 years of service, awarded by the Tallahassee Urban League.
When asked her feelings about barbering, Jefferson responded, “It has been awesome, a pleasure, an honor and a true blessing from God to have worked with such heart-warming, outstanding, understanding and over-protective old and young men in this profession. I would like to thank everyone from Leon and Jefferson counties who have played a part in making my career so special. I hope God blesses all of my clients, and I will miss them a great deal, but I know it’s time to move on.”
A master of her craft, Jefferson first thought of retiring a few months ago when she experienced a drastic decline in the strong client base she built over the decades. “A lot of my regular customers are now either bald or dead.”
Jefferson admits she will miss coming to the barbershop and cutting hair; however, she looks forward to the opportunities that lie ahead. “I’ve been wanting to sew for many years, but I was always too busy. Now, I’ll have time to sew and pick up other hobbies that I put on hold.”