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A cut above: Barber Stewart Johnson buzzing heads on Parris Island for 59 years

Parris Island 'legend': Stewart Johnson a barber at Depot since 1956

Mr. Johnson, affectionately known as "John D" to his Marines, has an upbeat, entertaining personality you have got to see. The 84-year-old Florence native credits his faith and a love of his work for 59 years -- and counting -- of getting haircuts
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Mr. Johnson, affectionately known as "John D" to his Marines, has an upbeat, entertaining personality you have got to see. The 84-year-old Florence native credits his faith and a love of his work for 59 years -- and counting -- of getting haircuts

If you just listened to all the chatter inside the barber shop at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, it would be hard to tell that Stewart Johnson -- always joking and energetic -- began buzzing heads at the depot some 36 years before most of his Marine customers were even born.

A native of Florence, Johnson, 84, came to Parris Island fresh from Denmark Technical College. He responded to a newspaper ad and, in seemingly no time, "they put me on a Greyhound bus" for the depot. The year was 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president. Haircuts cost 20 cents.

"Oh, I've seen a lot," Johnson said during a recent interview. "When I first came here it was segregated, you know. Segregated. And I saw that change. Yeah."

A deep faith, and a passion for his profession. That's how Johnson, or "John D" as his customers call him, says he's been able to have such a long career.

"I have fun. I enjoy living," Johnson said during a haircut, one of three he would do in less than an hour.

"These Marines make me enjoy living," he added. "Teasing them, carrying on. They tease me and I tease them."

But the barber shop hasn't always been full of laughter.

When Johnson used to shave the heads of new recruits -- which he stopped doing five years ago -- crying was not uncommon.

Johnson would console recruits by saying, "It ain't bad, man. It'll grow back."

As Johnson recounted the story on a recent day, he turned his attention to the Marine in his chair.

"You cried too, didn't you?" Johnson kidded his customer.

"No, I didn't cry," the Marine replied with a big smile.

"Yeah, you cried, man," Johnson responded with a smile to match.

When one of Johnson's customers leaves, he often cracks, "Come back tomorrow," or, "You gonna come back tomorrow?"

It's his friendly nature that makes him a Parris Island legend, said Kiara Gadson, one of Johnson's co-workers.

"Somebody that can actually be here this long and still do something they love for this length of time?" she said. "Yeah, you are very legendary in my book."

Johnson, a father of seven who lost his wife of 48 years in 2010, has no plans to retire anytime soon.

"I like coming (to work)," he says. "I like coming here. Something to do. Keep me going. Make me look good. Yeah, man."

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