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Positively LEX 18: Mercer County barber teaches others how to be a cut above the rest

Posted at 2:40 PM, Mar 04, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-05 09:13:20-05

MERCER COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — A professor at the Harrodsburg campus for Campbellsville University is proof you don't have to be a traditional student to be a success. Rodney James teaches barbering, but his lessons go far beyond a good haircut and close shave.

"Barbering has meant a lot to me, and it's been a family, " said James, who has been a barber for 25 years.

The former college dropout and Army veteran has spent about 15 of those years not only tending to the hair on people's heads but filling the heads of aspiring barbers with lessons to last a lifetime as an instructor.

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"I let them know anything is possible. I am standing here telling you that you can do anything you would like to do," James said.

To watch him in action at Campbellsville University is to see his passion, not just for the art of barbering, but for his students who lovingly refer to him as Coach.

"I have no doubt in my mind that I'll be able to handle myself when I get out there because of Coach," said Devin Maples, one of James' students. "If I could've had a teacher like him in high school there's no telling what I could've done. He's an amazing teacher."

In the shop, they learn all the technical skills of barbering like cutting, shaving and hot towel facials, but they also learn about something that James takes just as seriously -- building connections.

"It's like a classic barbershop feel, you know. You get the teachings, but you also get...there's jokes, there's laughter, you know. It's like family," said Prince Gooch, another of James' students.

Even through the pandemic, James has maintained his excellent standards of teaching via Facebook Live, and his success rate is high. One hundred percent of his students have passed their exams to get a state license; some have even earned perfect marks.

"I just feel proud to be able to equip them with the skills to be successful," James said.

James is busy running two barbershops in Lexington, but he always finds the time to mentor his students. He is building up the industry and changing lives at the same time.