Comer Cottrell, a respected public figure in the African American community and around the world, passed away October 12 at the age of 82.
Known as the ‘Jheri Curl Guru,’ Cottrell took the hair game to a different level.
Born in Mobile, Ala., Cottrell, along with his younger brother Jimmy, began business-selling bunnies at a young age, showing his entrepreneurship skills early.
At age 19, Cottrell served in the U.S. Air Force where he became the youngest person to reach the rank of first sergeant.
A couple of years later, he graduated from the University of Detroit in 1952.
Upon graduation, Cottrell worked as a sales manager at Sears Roebuck for five years, from 1964-1969.
In 1970, Cottrell started Pro-Line Corp. in Los Angeles, which sold a line of African-American hair-care products, and never looked back.
In 1973, his Pro-Line Corp. made $1 million in sales. In 1980, Cottrell relocated the company’ headquarters to Dallas, Tex., which was a three moth process.
By 1988, he was running the largest black-owned firm in the Southwest, eventually selling the firm to Alberto-Culver in 2000.
Cottrell was a businessman that invested in many opportunities that he knew he could make a difference in.
He became a member of the Citizens Council in Texas, which was made up of CEOs from the 80 largest companies in Dallas. Cottrell was the first African-American to be invited.
Cottrell purchased a nightclub (Renaissance Club) and turned it into a private club.
He wanted it to be a place where women in the black community would have a place for social luncheons and the males would have a place to meet after work.
However, Black people would not join the club because they did not want to make him rich. He later sold the place and it was renamed ‘RJ’s On the Lake.’
Cottrell felt that Dallas did not produce many minority council members. So, he paired up with Rev. Johnson and others, and started a battle for a 14-1 system: 14 single-member districts and one mayor elected at large.
In addition to these greats facts about Cottrell, he also became a sponsor of Miss Collegiate African-American Pageant in 1989, the bought the Major League Baseball team Texas Rangers in 1989, purchased Bishop College, a predominately black university in Dallas in 1990.
Celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Samuel L. Jackson and Eddie Murphy have used Cottrell’s hairstyle.
In 2007, Cottrell released autobiography entitled Comer Cottrell: A Story That Will Inspire Future Entrepreneurs. The amazon summary for his book read:
“From childhood entrepreneurial ventures with his brother to the $80-million sale of Pro-Line, Comer Cottrell stuck to his recipe for success: practicing the Golden Rule and making his word his bond. Now he shares nine other must-haves for young entrepreneurs. His advice ranges from a strong desire to be the boss to taking risks. At every step of his success, he relied on knowing his product, understanding his customers, and, reinvesting profits in his company a formula that can still work for entrepreneurs. An icon among African American business leaders, Cottrell is pictured in the book with three presidents, sports and entertainment celebrities, and numerous friends and family. A witty storyteller, he traces his involvement in the evolution of African Americans in business and in many of the major events in the twentieth century.”
With first wife, Mildred Daniels, Cottrell had one daughter, Renee. Cottrell has two sons, Comer III and Aaron, by his third wife, Isabell Paulding, and has left behind his current wife Felisha, and their two sons, Bryce and Lance.