- Associated Press - Sunday, June 7, 2020

NESHOBA, Miss. (AP) - For nearly 50 years, Bennie Adkins has cut hair for generations of customers in Neshoba County.

Now another generation of his family is taking up the trade. His grandson, Chandler Young, 19, finished barber school earlier this month. He has joined the family business and is working at the shop on Holland Avenue across from the hospital.

Adkins’ son, daughter and son-in-law have also been barbers for years. His daughter, Cindy Young, works with him. His son, Stacy Atkins, and son-in-law Chad Young have a shop in another location.

“Actually, Chandler is a fourth-generation barber,” Adkins said. “His great grandfather, my wife’s (Mary) father, was a barber. I have been looking forward to this day for a long time.”

Chandler knows this shop well. While attending Neshoba Central, he came here every day after school. He has swept the floors and cleaned the counters many times. But he did not necessarily grow up thinking he was going to be a barber.

“His papaw talked him into it, just like he did the rest of us,” Chandler’s mom, Cindy, said.

Chandler admitted that was true.

“I was graduating from Neshoba Central and I didn’t know what I was going to do,” Chandler said. “My grandfather told me, seriously, that I should consider becoming a barber. He said telling me about the opportunities that come with the job. You do more then cut hair; you are meeting people and getting to know them. It sounded like something I might want to be doing 50 years from now.”

Adkins has enjoyed an interesting life.

“I see it all,” Adkins said. “If there is anything going on in town, the barber is going to know about it.

“I learned you don’t do all the talking,” Adkins said. “I hear a lot of things. Some are true. Other things, you take with a grain of salt.

“Start the conversation and let the customer talk. If they want to talk about the Guard, you listen. If they want to talk about hunting, you listen to them. There is not much that I don’t know a little bit about because I listen to my customers,” Adkins said.

He has been cutting hair for many of his customers since they were young.

“If you were 50 when I started cutting hair, you would be 100 today,” Adkins said. “I’m cutting hair for the great, great grandchildren of my original customers.”

He said he has lived the good times and the bad with his customers.

“We become part of their lives and they are part of ours,” Adkins said.

Adkins, a lifelong resident of Neshoba County, loves politics.

“I’m a Republican and I don’t care who knows it,” he quickly said.

And from daily conversations with customers from around the county, he has gotten rather good at picking winners in local elections.

“The week before the first primary election last year, I said Eric Clark was going to win out right,” Clark said. “And he did.

“I can put things together. If five people are running, I can tell you who is going to win and who is going to finish last. It’s not what I want to happen; it’s based on what I hear. People will say, ‘how did you know that?’”

During the years of working in his shop, there are four events that stand out: 1) 911; 2) Hurricane Katrina; 3) the building that blew up just down the street; and, 4) the Coronavirus pandemic.

“That Coronavirus is bad stuff,” Adkins said. “We have been closed for five weeks and we just reopened. We are wearing masks, washing our hands and cleaning the surfaces like the regulations say.

“I have seen plenty of things. This is tornado alley. I have seen two tornadoes come through in front of my shop. When that building blew up, we thought an airplane had hit the building,” Adkins said.

In the past 50 years, Adkins has done much more than run a barber shop. He has served in the Army National Guard with the 298th Unit. He was called to active duty for Desert Storm. He was sent to train at Fort Hood and the war was over before he was sent to Kuwait.

He owns 400 acres of land and is a tree farmer.

“I used to raise cows,” Adkins said. “But I switched to raising trees because they don’t eat hay and they don’t get out when I’m not there. I sold my cows and started planting trees, but they don’t much anymore.”

He served two terms as a constable in Neshoba County. He is also active in his church, Pine Grove of Dixon. He has served three terms on the state barber board and has been appointed by three different governors.

The barber shop is open Monday through Saturday. Adkins said they stay busy, seeing as many as 50 customers or more a day. When he started, haircuts cost $1.50. Now they run $15 to $25.

“God has been good to me and my family,” Adkins, 72, said. “Now that my grandson has joined us, I’m thinking about slowing down a little and cutting the number of days I work. My wife and I like to travel, and we go to the mountains three or four times a year. A couple of years back, we took our 50th honeymoon trip to Alaska.”

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