Vernon Winfrey, was born in West Mississippi, Mississippi on January 31, 1933. Although he grew up poor, his work ethic was not. He had very good parents who gave him and his eight siblings the best they could. At a young age he worked on a farm from sun up to sun down. He tended to cows and hogs, drove a wagon with mules and picked cotton.
During this time, it was very inconvenient for Blacks to get an education. Vernon and his siblings walked three miles each way to and from school. Since there was no kindergarten, one did not start school until the age of seven. Then you went to school until eighth grade unless your parents could board you off to school.
Vernon and two of his siblings managed to continue going to school where they lived in dorms. He never got hot lunches but was able to buy cold snacks at a store down the road from 10 — 25 cents. He decided to take a break from high school and joined the Army for two years. Vernon served during the Korean Conflict which ended two weeks prior to the end of his basic training. Thanks to the GI Bill, he returned from the Army and graduated from high school at the age of 25. Vernon and his brothers served their country proudly.
In July of 1955, a few weeks after he got out of the service Vernon moved to Nashville, Tennessee in search of a better opportunity. He still has the same suitcase that he used for the move. He started as a janitor at Vanderbilt University for several years. He worked a variety of jobs, including working 10 years in a uniform company and ran a convenience store for 14 years. At the end of the summer of 1963, Vernon graduated from Hasla Barber College. After serving a year and a half as an apprentice, Vernon opened his own barber shop, which he has operated in the exact same location for more than 50 years.
Vernon Winfrey's consistency and service to his community contributed a lot to his success as a barber. He is a deacon at his church, Faith United Baptist Church. Vernon served on the Metro Council from 1975 until 1991 and has served as a trustee for the Tennessee State University. He was also a board member of the Tennessee State Barber Board and Ross College in Holly Springs, Mississippi.
Vemon Winfrey was married for thirty-nine years to Zelma Winfrey until her death. He has a daughter, Oprah, who he insisted acquire a good education. She is very successful today. Mr. and Mrs. Winfrey also helped raise Thomas Walker, whose mother died when he was a young child. Thomas was adopted by the Winfrey family when he was eleven years old. He joined the Coast Guard at the age of eighteen. After 23 years in the Coast Guard, Thomas became a Lieutenant with the Davidson County Sherriffs Department in Nashville, Tennessee.
Mr. Vemon Winfrey is a perfect example of entrepreneurship and barbering. He has been an inspiration to many individuals that he has met.
Inspiring things that Mr. Winfrey has accomplished include: He's been a barber for over 50 years and in his 80's still works daily in the same shop. He is a well-respected mentor with numerous barbers crediting their success to him. He taught them skills that go far beyond barbering and shares many of life's lessons with them. As a councilman in the 5th District for sixteen years, he helped many young men turn their lives around. He has taken on the responsibility of mentoring them, showing them how to recognize better opportunities and to make good life decisions. Vernon has taken other barbers under his wing until they could open their own barber shops and schools. When Vernon Winfrey set out for Nashville to find a better life, he left with the philosophy of:
"You can make it if you try, but you have to try."