SAN DIEGO –Willie Lee Morrow, who popularized tools such as the Afro pick and became one of San Diego’s most prominent Black business leaders as the founder of a hair-care supply empire, died June 22 at the age of 82, according to multiple media outlets.
The Washington Post reports his daughter Cheryl Morrow confirmed her father’s death from pneumonia.
In 1959, Willie Lee moved to San Diego, where he developed combs used to create the popular Afro hairstyle as well as a line of creams to produce the “Jheri curl,” the newspaper stated.
“Ever since there was racism, ever since there was discrimination against Black bodies, there was discrimination against Black hair as well,” Tameka Ellington, the co-curator of the exhibit “Textures: The History and Art of Black Hair” on view at Kent State University in Ohio, told the Washington Post in an interview. “His work was a means of being able to uplift the Black community.”
Willie Lee died at his home in San Diego, the paper reported. He is survived by his wife of more than five decades, two daughters and several sisters and brothers.