50 Years and a Second Chance

For William Humbles, being a barber is more than a job. It’s his second chance — and a way to provide for his family. After being sentenced to 50 years in prison, he realized something in his life had to change. So while serving his sentence, he got his barber’s license and a bachelor’s degree. Right after being released, he bought clippers and started cutting hair. Now, he runs his own business as a barber, grateful for each day he gets to provide for his loved ones.

“My grandson, he comes in and he does what I did with my uncle. He sits and stares. He says he wants to be a barber.”

Video Transcript

Woman: You’re excited about this, huh? I said I could cut it at home, and he’s, “No, mom. No.”

William Humbles: We used to stay in Chicago in one of the worst areas. It was like crime infested. And when you’re poor and you see crime all the time and you see people get away with stuff, because the police didn’t really go in there a lot, you start seeing, “Well, this is the way that you do things.”

I still had that mindset that when I go inside a store, I could just walk around in the aisles and eat the food and walk out. And with gangs, it just elevates. Crime elevates. People think about different things to do. “We can go over here and steal this,” or, “We can start selling this,” or whatever. And as this is going on, I’m still cutting hair.

I end up going to prison. I shot a person and they gave me 50 years. So I went to prison. When I got sentenced to 50 years, right then I said, “Man, you’ve got to change. This is not working. You need to start working on what you’re going to do with your life. You’re going to be old when you get out.” I’ve got a daughter. I don’t get to see her that much. How am I going to get back in relation with her?

Over decades of being incarcerated, it can either turn you crazy or it can solidify you.

I got my license when I was in prison. When I got my bachelor’s degree, I still had two years left to do in prison, but they give you time cuts for getting college degrees. Once I got it, it put me out the door. That was my release ticket right there.

And when I got out, went and bought $1,000 worth of clippers.

(William turns chair so boy can see haircut in mirror)

Woman: That looks so cool. You like that?

William: You see your design right there?

Boy: Yeah.

William: How’s it look? How’s the haircut look?

Woman: You like it? You really like it?

Boy: Yeah.

Woman: Good.

William: Then I went from there — opened up a Facebook account, and then I just started bringing people over to my brother’s house every day cutting their hair.

(William shows photos on his phone)

And this is my first client outside of my family, when I first got out. He took a chance on me and we just — we vibe. Me and him, we vibe. This is my guy Virgo Krazz right here. And he always has me put different type of designs in his hair. This is my little great nephew, his name is 3J. Just a little bald fade.

And now I’m just enjoying my life, man. I’ve got my grandkids here with me now. I thank God every day.

To look at kids and know that I’m providing…and when I come in, my grandkids, they come run to me and hug me and stuff. My grandson, he comes in and he does what I did with my uncle. He sits and stares. He says he wants to be a barber, but I don’t know if he just likes it because I give him everything he wants. He said, “I want to be a barber, Papa.” I was like, “All right.” He said, “And I want to be fat.” I said, “No, you don’t want to be fat.” I think he’s just trying to be like me now.

We just took my granddaughter to Golden Corral. And then I got her in the car and I put that Alicia Keys, “Girl on Fire” on there, and she sung the whole song.

(Video plays of granddaughter singing in the car)

(William laughs)

William: I’m in the car trying not to laugh, right? But it’s so cute.

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