Beloved Brookhaven barber dies of coronavirus, leaves legacy of hard work

Updated: Apr. 6, 2020 at 11:12 PM CDT
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BROOKHAVEN, Miss. (WLBT) - The coronavirus-related death of Eugene Thompson on Saturday has resounded to every corner of Brookhaven and Lincoln County. The popular barber was known and loved on many levels by many people.

Byron Catchings and Thompson, friends since high school, had often talked about working together in the same barbershop one day. Catchings was hit hard by the news of his old friend’s death. So were many others.

“The thing about losing Eugene is it was just reaching out to everybody in this community because this whole community knew him and no matter who you was, you knew Eugene,” said Catchings.

The barber, just a few days past his 46th birthday when he died, had an impact on a lot of people. He wasn’t just well known in his community, but also among barbers around the country.

“A great icon. He touched so many people’s lives here. And other places as well,” said his cousin Teegie Hargro, detailing how a Facebook group of barbers from around the country had paid tribute to him this weekend.

Hargro owns SweeTeez, a sweets shop on Monticello Street. As people came in for carryout orders, they all talked about knowing Eugene.

Shanta Harris was a customer who developed a close friendship with Eugene. When she first moved her children back to Brookhaven, she didn’t have money for their haircuts.

“There’s a lot of people, kids and adults that he cut for free that didn’t have the money and I was one of them,” Harris said.

Catchings said in high school, Thompson was a quiet guy who played in the band. As an adult, Thompson was the life of the party, and he was an entrepreneur.

“He was outgoing, fun to be around, a big joker and prankster, but when it all came down to business, he was all about business,“ Hargro said.

He had a laser-like focus on his goals, too. Thompson had wanted to start a barber school for many years, and he opened TaperNation in September.

“If he saw it and he thought that he could do it, it was going to happen, and it happened,” Catchings said as he stood in the parking lot of TaperNation.

Thompson’s next goal was to find ways to racially reunite Brookhaven, black and white. A post on Facebook shows photos of his work cutting designs into the hair of the Brookhaven Academy baseball team, which is mostly white.

Catchings said Thompson always spoke of cutting hair -- not black hair or white hair, just hair. That became his goal, to unite the community and erase racial lines.

“He wanted to see Brookhaven come together," Catchings said.

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