Freddie Waters, Eddie Frierson and Arthur 'Skeet' Alsup.

By Rossi Turner/TnTribune International correspondent

Eddie Frierson passed away on Tuesday morning the 28th of October 2020 at his home in Nashville, Tennessee. He was in the best place he could be, he was in the arms of his devoted wife Sheila Frierson. The cause of his death was stomach cancer. The causes of his life were much greater.

The late Congressman John Lewis has coined the phrase, “Good Trouble.” These two words relate to those who have decided to get in good trouble for a good cause during the civil rights movement. Eddie Frierson was one of those who did just that. Perhaps, most notable are the many he has inspired while they were seated in the Economic Barbershop. A barbershop that he shared with his longtime associate the late Charles Reynolds.

Some may have come into the barbershop for just a haircut, and an edge up. They would leave with a head’s up. This heads up fell into the categories of everything from boxing, football and other sports. Not withstanding, his most profound heads up took place with his unbelievable knowledge of Black history, local and national politics. Few would disagree that he was one of the best philosophical story tellers in Nashville. There is a saying that, “the fruit doesn’t fall too far from the tree.” This old adage is appropriate when one considers the civil rights work of his mother Zulee Ursery. (Please see story on Zulee in Tennessean Newspaper archives). Mother Ursery was one of the primary leaders in the movement for fair housing for the then so-called Negroes in Nashville. Eddie Frierson took up this baton of social responsibility from her and continued it with his voice in Barbershop meetings and council meetings as a good trouble representative of the wrong things in public policy and practice that needed to be righted. He kept us reminded of the contributions of Joe Kelso and Curly McGruder.

Dr. Warren Moore the former Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission in Tennessee now living in San Antonio, Texas had this to say about Eddie, “The replica of his mother. A stallworth in the community teaching me and others.”

Born in Macon, Mississippi Eddie and his mother made Nashville their home. His contributions were not limited to civil rights. Eddie Frierson also had an artistic side as one of the singers in the singing group The Hy-Tones. The Hy-tones were the background group for Night Train. Night Train was a television musical show produced in Nashville with a host of stars. Among these stars were James Brown and Jimmy Hendricks. According to Eddie, night train led to the famous Soul Train television show with Don Cornelius. Among the groups hits were “You Don’t Even No My Name” and “Shoe Fly Don’t Bother Me.” Eddie would sometimes belt out a few baritone sounds in the barbershop like this one from Cab Calloway, , “Folks let me tell you about Minnie the moocher, She was a red hot hoochie coocher…” With his scissors in his right hand and a comb in his left hand he would stand to the side of that old barber’s chair with that leather razors belt dangling on one side and sing. The fellas would just roll with laughter. Eddie provided sound advice from that chair for about everything from buying a car to buying a house and relationships in between. One of the dimes that he dropped on me was, “Rossi, I have made enough mistakes in my life that you don’t have to make none.”

From waiters to the wealthy, hang your titles at the door. All were welcome to come to the Economic Barbershop for the haircut and the cutting up. George Carothers, who resides now in Atlanta recalls, “When I attended Waverly Belmont, I was 14 years old in 1965. Eddie was my barber. Eddie loved to talk and share stories. When I was in the barbershop Eddie told the story of how he was traveling back to Nashville with his band The Hy-Tones. During that time, they played the “Chitterling Circuit”. Eddie said the band got pulled over by the Alabama police. They looked into the car and saw the instruments. The police officers had them pull over to a side street take out the washboard, spoons, drums and other instruments and had them set up and play a couple of tunes. Afterwards they said, “you boys need to be on your way.”

Pastor Sam Kirk writes, “My Barber and Friend. Eddie Frierson was one of the most genuine men I have ever met in my life! So many superficial people are in the world. Eddie Frierson was not one of them. Eddie was committed to what he believed. I can totally respect a man who does not waiver for popularity or acceptance sake but stands by what he believes, even if it is not popular. We are all better because of his non-conforming stance. He was my barber and no-one could do a straight razor shave like he could…More importantly he was my friend. God rest his soul and the world will miss his wisdom.”

His good buddy, former councilman and African American Cultural Alliance president Kwame Lillard had this to say about Eddie Frierson, “Freedom is not a destiny. It is a journey.”

William Robinson said Eddie was “quiet fire. He didn’t have to be in the spotlight but made a genuine difference while working assiduously in the background.”

Ruth Julius from South Africa met Eddie during one of her visits to the United States and commented, “I experienced such peace while chatting with him. Hours of just talking. Not many people have displayed and radiated such peace while still being very excited and passionate about the topic. Always present during the conversations. We laughed so much until he coughed and then he laughed some more. An absolute honor to have met him.”

It’s interesting to note that in addition to their dedication to civil and human rights John Lewis and Eddie Frierson had something else in common. Both were introduced to their life long wives by an introduction from someone else. hhmmm.

The salutation for this announcement and acknowledgement of a life well done comes from a relative of the family…Ms. Sean Wilson writes,

Sheila Frierson has been a loving, devoted wife for 29 years, and just lost her beloved husband, Eddie Frierson, former Nashville Activist, Nashville Barber and Hytone member/singer.

Prayers for his son, Eddie, Jr.: step son, Keith Thompson and all of the Fisher and Frierson friends and family.

“Prayers for Siane Wilson, my daughter…whom Eddie was proud of as a professional dancer who recently returned from performing in China. Siane is taking it really hard. Siane simply said, “I love Eddie.” Prayers for my sister Stephanie who’s in disbelief.

Prayers for Ms. Bonnie Maye! She’s closer than we are in some respects. I know she’s got her best friend, my Aunt Shelia.”

On Friday before his passing, I visited Eddie for what would be the last time. He was watching MeTV. It was then that I witnessed the best example of the words, “in sickness and in health.…till death do us part.”

There, on the new blue couch Sheila and Eddie Frierson sat with his head leaning on her left shoulder….” His last words to me were, “Rossi, find you a woman like this.”

At Eddie’s request there will not be a formal service. May all who knew him hold onto the memories he crafted with his mind and soul. It’s fitting to end this article with an old school mind twister saying from his mother Zulee Ursery, she would say, it’s awful peculiar to get bitten by a snake when you saw the snake first.”