Clayton Barbershop’s history and impact on Meridian

Published: May. 11, 2023 at 7:22 PM CDT
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MERIDIAN, Miss. (WTOK) - It’s no secret that 5th Street in Meridian has a long, rich history for African American businesses, including the E.F. Young Hotel. We’re hearing from the family of Clayton Barbershop after it was demolished along with the hotel by the Young family in late April.

The historic E.F. Young Hotel was built in 1940 and catered to the needs of African Americans. Not only did the hotel serve as one of the only hotels that accepted African Americans to stay but the first floor also served as space for black-owned businesses.

“Dentist, Dr. Carnegie was next door, there was a shoe repair shop, and there was a café grill. So, it was bustling. There was another dentist, I think he was upstairs, Dr. Huff. But I believe these individuals passed away but we still remember them. It was a rich history,” said the daughter of Lawrence Clayton, Carolyn Clayton Jones.

Carolyn Clayton Jones and Brenda Clayton knew the owners of these businesses all too well as their father, Lawrence Clayton Sr., and uncle, Lee Allen Clayton owed the famous Clayton Barbershop located at the end of the lot the E.F. Young hotel. The sisters said it operated from the late 1940′s to the mid 80′s.

“If you were to meet other people who knew about the Clayton Barbershop and the people there. You’re going to get a similar family kind of connected story. They’re going to have something from their heart they’re going to be talking in terms of how those individuals in that barbershop affected their lives. Even with my dads passing at the end of December 1978. It was shown by the community. We felt their impact all over the state,” said Carolyn Clayton Jones.

The Clayton sisters said the barbershop was a safe haven for African Americans as was every business on 5th street. They said it was always busy whether it be for events or just people having a good time.

“The parades were big to do down here. Businesses, either stayed open or they closed as a result when they knew that parade was coming through before a big football game. So the people, Daddy, Uncle Lee would come out of the barbershop, customers. People were sitting on cars out here, all on 5th street,” said Carolyn Jones Clayton.

Now when drive by an empty lot is all you will see. The Clayton sisters now live in Houston but recently visited the Queen City. They said they were never informed about the demolition of the building.

“To see the demolition of these buildings has taken away a lot of the history and to know that they might not. These buildings, what’s going to happen if nothing is reconstructed, no one is trying to preserve history. It’s just a hole. It’s a big pain,” said the daughter of Lawrence Clayton, Brenda Clayton.

Also gone with the shop, the sign that spells out Clayton Barbershop. A piece of history the sisters wanted to have for their family.

“Where is the Clayton barbershop sign? Because if it’s not some place being preserved for the future of this area, it’s a historical area. Our family would love to have it. We will preserve it,” said Brenda Clayton.

“And too for us whatever we wanted from the business if there was anything we could save we wanted to pass it along to the next generation because they have heard about the history of this area right here,” said Carolyn Clayton Jones.

The E.F. Young sign however has been removed and stored safely for the Young family.

The Claytons said there are many families who were a part of the historic building. The sisters said they are open to working with anyone, including the city to help preserve the buildings and history of the African American District.