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Pope barber tells his story

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Mindy Bloem
  • 43rd Airlift Wing Public Affairs
His demeanor is easy. He makes himself comfortable in one of his barber chairs and calmly crosses his legs. His southern drawl takes on a life of its own as he begins discussing his life history.

At age 68, Lutrell Butler, one of Pope's long-standing barbers, doesn't like to think about slowing down.

"I want to hang in as long as I can, but I know I have to retire one day," he said. "Maybe after the base (realignment and) closure, I'll retire. I will probably still do it here and there though. I love being a barber. It is in my blood."

Mr. Butler's journey to become a military barber began in 1958 after graduating from Roseboro High School in North Carolina.

"Our class motto was 'you can make it if you try,' he said. "Both my cousin and my uncle were military barbers, so they helped influence me to become one too."

After saving his money for a year by working on a farm, Mr. Butler attended Harris Barber College. He soon graduated as a registered barber.

In 1960, he was hired to work as a barber on Fort Bragg. His dream was now reality.

"I like to be around military," Mr. Butler said. "Over the years, I have seen many people come and go. I really get involved in the lives of my customers."

Because Mr. Butler is such a fan of flying, he decided to set up shop on Pope in 1973.

It's such a thrill to see the planes, pilots and aircrews out on the flightline, he said. The air shows Pope puts on were another big reason for relocating my shop to Pope.

During his time on Pope, Mr. Butler has seen a lot of changes take place.

He recalled how the traffic was not nearly as bad as it is today. He explained there was no Murchison Road or Bragg Boulevard back then, and as a result he had a straight shot to work.

He has noticed changes in base security over the years as well.

"There were no gates on Pope before 1975," he said. "So security has really increased."

He also talked about the structural changes on base and changes to the aircraft here.

"Pope used to have all C-130s; there were not A-10s here at all," Mr. Butler recalled. "I have seen banks come and go, clinics move around base -- a lot of changes through the years."

Having spent much of his adult life in the late 50s and the 60s, Mr. Butler is well-acquainted with the change in the racial climate as well.

"When I went to high school and barber college, the schools weren't integrated like they are today," he said. "Black folks and white folks had to go to separate schools.

"Martin Luther King got a lot of people to realize that men really are all created equal, and he really helped the situation. We have just as much right as anyone. This is a great country and our country is all about equality. We all should have equal opportunities, and I think we are much better today because we realize that."

He said working for the military during that time was refreshing because they were already integrated.

"Military was already merged at this time and were ahead of everyone in that respect," Mr. Butler said. "Since I have been a barber, I have been treated really nice on base. I gained a lot of respect for the military, and they gave me a lot of respect. A person has a lot more respect these days, I think."

Mr. Butler said he does not regret his decision to become a military barber.

In addition to working 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. five days a week on Pope, he also works on Saturdays at a shop he owns with his son.

"It's a job where I can constantly communicate with people, which I like because I am a people person," Mr. Butler said. "Through the years, I have seen a lot of my regulars make rank and it feels good to see them make progress and keep coming back to my shop."

As Mr. Butler talks, one of his customers comes in for a haircut. The customer seems pleased when Mr. Butler tells him he is available.

Senior Airman Tanner Herring, 43rd Operations Support Squadron, sits down while Mr. Butler prepares him for a hair cut.

"He provides excellent service," said Airman Herring. "He gives me exactly what I want every time. Some of my friends go to Mr. Butler and advised me to go. They said it would be worth it, and they were right."

A picture of a now retired general is displayed in Mr. Butler's office with these words written on the picture inside the frame: "Lutrell, thank you for the great hair cuts, friendship, good humor, 40 years of experience and service to our community."

Mr. Butler said besides being the best barber he can be, his other goal is to be a Christian gentleman.

"It's simple, I try to treat people as I like to be treated," he said. "Speak to people with respect and be kind to them. That is what is important in life."
Mr. Butler has been a barber for 48 years.

He is located at the Pope Club behind the swimming pool. He is available by appointment or walk-in. For more information, call 394-4387.