We reported last week the passing of West Side businessman Willie James Barney on Feb. 20. The Parkdale, Arkansas, native was born on Oct. 10, 1927. Like so many African-American southerners, he relocated to Chicago in the early 1950s. With a vision and an entrepreneurial spirit, he began selling R&B records from the trunk of his car, eventually growing Barney’s Swing Shop into Barney’s Records.
As Barney’s One-Stop became one of the country’s leading distribution hubs to many mom and pop retailer stores, indie labels and DJs broke into the mixtape business.
He created 4Brothers Records that introduced acts such as R&B icon Tyrone Davis and G.L. Crockett.
Mr. Barney took hold of his personal health through the transformation of vegetarianism where he created New Life Health Foods and Restaurant in the early 1980s in the Lawndale community. The business is still flourishing as his son Raymond continues to oversee the store’s operation.
When asked about his contribution to the Civil Rights movement, Mr. Barney bluntly says, “I was giving people jobs.” His direct and honest approach with people secured him the loyalty and respect of his employees, neighbors, and friends. As a prominent member of the Chicago Black business and Hebrew Israelite community, he was a proud patriarch who aimed to instill the values of tenacity and family togetherness in his children.
Mr. Barney is survived by sons, Reginald and Raymond; daughter, Anayah and 16 grandchildren, along with many great- and great-great grandchildren.