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NAACP honors 20-year firms

August 28, 2018

Sunday wasn’t an ordinary day for longtime barber Roger Miller.

Rather, there was “something spiritual” about it, he said during the NAACP’s 73rd annual Freedom Fund Banquet at Purdue University Fort Wayne.

Event proceeds benefit the Fort Wayne/Allen County chapter, which has about 175 members.

Leaders stressed membership is open to all.

“This is not just a black organization,” second vice president Timothy Russell said to applause. “This is a people organization.”

The banquet saluted minority businesses in operation at least 20 years. Honorees included a photographer, a tailor, an auto repair shop and Ellis Funeral Home.

Craig Ellis said the funeral home’s recognition would have been especially significant to his father, Cecil Ellis, a former chapter president. Both his parents were NAACP life members.

Event chair and chapter secretary Erma Belt noted the efforts to grow the organization’s Youth Council and said those recognized Sunday have potential to become role models for younger generations.

A barber since 1968, Miller remembers his mentor, William “Pops” Files, whose photograph ran alongside Miller’s in the event program. Being honored in August : the eighth month : was significant because that’s the month Files closed his shop and the month Miller opened his at 1210 Maumee Ave., Miller said.

That was 35 years ago, Miller said, noting the sum of three and five is also eight.

Miller has cut hair for generations of men : great-grandfathers, grandfathers, fathers, sons : and for all walks of life. He doesn’t view it as a job.

“This is not a career for me,” Miller said. “It’s a calling.”

asloboda@jg.net

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