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Cornelius News

It’s official: Potts Barber Shop is a Historic Landmark

Mickey Potts, with new historic plaque

Feb. 28. Potts Barber Shop officially received landmark status Saturday during Black History Month observations downtown. The Charlotte/Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission plaque was unveiled with members of the Potts family in attendance as well as elected officials.

“We are so very thankful and appreciative of this designation. Our thoughts on this day go back to our dad Wilson who actually started doing haircuts in 1926 in another spot,” said his son Ron Potts, representing the Potts family.

Potts Barber Shop / Photo by Jason Benavides

Ron’s brother, Gerald “Mickey” Potts, still cuts hair at the shop their father opened in 1960. Gerald’s late wife Nannie Potts is another important piece of Cornelius history: She was the first and only African-American mayor of Cornelius.

According to Deputy Town Manager Wayne Herron, the buildings which house Potts Barber Shop consist of two separately constructed brick storefronts joined by a common party wall and façade. The west-side storefront was constructed by the Stough-Cornelius Co., whose original shareholders included town R.J. Stough and town namesake J.B. Cornelius.

The late Nannie Potts

Aside from its association with the founding of the town, the former Stough-Cornelius Building also was the headquarters of the Cornelius Electric Membership Corp., an electric cooperative formed in 1940 through the federal government’s Rural Electric Administration.

Rich history

Wilson Potts helped bring about integration to Cornelius. It was long customary that barbers who were black did not cut black customers’ hair. This kind of segregation in Cornelius ended quietly in 1972 when a Black man entered the shop and asked for a haircut.

Wilson Potts decided to go ahead, do the haircut, and then the new customer quietly left. Hair-cutting in Cornelius was integrated.

“The Potts Barber Shop is an important cultural and historic property for the Town of Cornelius and very worthy of the historic landmark designation,” said historic preservation advocate Abigail Jennings, who attended on Saturday. “The Potts family’s contributions to our region should be preserved and shared with future generations. They have touched many lives over the years and this is a well-earned accomplishment.”

Potts Barber Shop