Harris Barber College

by Terry Watson | August 6th, 2011
Tobia McLean

Tobia McLean (Photos by Harris Barber College)

Samuel Harris, a native of Franklin County North Carolina, started Harris Barber College in 1930 in the back of a barbershop located on 124 East Hargett Street, next to what is now the Hamlin Drug Store in downtown Raleigh. Later, the college moved to East Cabarrus Street between Blount and Bloodworth Street. Mr Harris, a seasoned barber, believed that young African American males should possess a skill that would help them improve their economic status and eventually create opportunities where they would not only be employees, but employers. In 1942 a new college was built and the Harris Barber College Family moved to 803 South Blount Street, behind Shaw University, where the school still stand today. The new facility offered opportunities for students to room and board and is thought to be the oldest boarding Barber School in the State. In addition to focusing on the trade of barbering, the school has always emphasized student’s spiritual lives and their civic responsibilities.
Mr. Harris was not just the owner of the Barber College, but of other barbershops throughout Raleigh and in Fort Bragg.

However, the shortage of good managers left Mr. Harris no choice but to discontinue the shops. He then focused solely on the Barber College continuing with his effort to insure that quality education was being offered. In 1947 Mr. Harris died and his wife, Mrs. Vivian Harris, stopped teaching to continue to operate the college. Mrs. Harris later married Mr. A. E. Brown who joined in and offered inspirational messages to students during the instruction day. Mrs. Harris Brown later retired in the early 1970’s Down through the years, some of the reliable managers and instructors that assisted the Harris Family in running an efficient school were Mr. George K. Lynch, Mr. John Clay, Mr. Joseph I. Stredwick, Mr. Wyatt Cumbo, Reverend C. R. Stone and Mr. Tobias McLean. Today, the Barber College is still standing tall on top of a hill with open doors ready to serve the community.

Mr. Tobias McLean is now managing the school, and with a diverse student body of both men and women, continues to be a positive force in our community teaching both barbering skills and personal values for life’s success.

Tobias McLean grew up in Kenansville, NC, where he attended Duplin County Schools. He graduated from James Kenan High School in Warsaw, NC in 1977. Immediately upon graduating high school Tobias entered the US Army. He served his country for a tenure of 3 years, from 1977-1980. Mr. Mclean then became employed as a teacher assistant in the Duplin County School System. He did not know that this would ultimately provide some foundation for what he would be lead to do later in his life. In 1981, he enrolled in Harris Barber College. He completed all requirements for a barber license in May 1982.

Tobias thirst for more knowledge and expertise in his chosen field led him to Civella Beauty College in Raleigh, NC in July of 1982. He completed all requirements and earned his cosmetology license in July of 1983. Mr. Mclean continued his studies ~ pursuit of an instructor’s license, and was granted that license in 1984 by the North Carolina State Board. After receiving his instructor’s license, Tobias became a part-time instructor for Harris Barber College.

Even after completing the required barber curriculum, Mr. Mclean remained committed to Harris Barber College. Throughout his studies at Civella he continued to stop by Harris to see how things were going, to help out when a hand was needed, and to visit with Reverend Stone, who was manager at that time. Reverend Stone was very influential in guiding Tobias career. He. would often discuss the profession with Tobias, and took, every opportunity to steer Tobias in the right direction. He offered Tobias guidance and support in may aspects of his life.

It seemed only fitting that Reverend Stone would be the one to marry. Tobias to his wife, Carrie, in December of 1985. Tobias still has no idea which turns his career path would take. He continued to work hard and “take” advantage of every opportunity that he encountered. In his endeavor, at the beginning of 1986, he opened what is now, Mclean’s Barber & Beauty Salon. In the Summer of that same year, 1986, he became a full-time instructor at Harris Barber College in effects to assist Reverend Stone.

Mr. Mclean worked hard with the students. He saw potential in each one of the students and committed himself to maximizing that potential. His goal as an instructor was to empower each student to work hard, and to stretch themselves to the limit that they might achieve great strides in the barber profession because he knew that is what it takes to become successful and because he so desperately wanted everyone of his students to experience that success.

It was out of this commitment to the students, a life-long commitment to Harris Barber College and to Reverend Stone who he had grown to respect for his infinite wisdom and guidance, and a commitment to the barber profession that Mr. Mclean agreed to accept the responsibility of manager for Harris Barber College in January of 1994.

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