Hendrix is newest addition to AIB's 'Wall of Fame'
by Shane Dunaway
TALLADEGA — The Alabama Industries for the Blind honors the legacy of its former workers through its “Wall of Fame” historical exhibit, which was established more than a decade ago.

In June, Billy Sparkman, executive director of AIB, inducts Alfred E. Hendrix, who worked in AIB’s broom shop for more than 16 years.

“Hendrix was the father of the broom business at AIB,” Sparkman said.

Before he became a fixture at AIB, Hendrix, known as “Fred” to many of his peers, ran a privately owned broom shop in Phenix City despite being completely blind.

During his time as a shop owner, Hendricks met Willie Farrior, a visually impaired student from the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind, and trained him to make brooms in his shop.

When business at Hendrix’s shop began to slow down, Farrior decided to move, but their paths would cross again multiple times.

According to Farrior, he had been living in Selma for about a month when he received a request to return to work for Hendrix in August 1947. Two months later, Hendrix moved his shop to Columbus, Ga.

Hendrix remained in business until June 1948 before closing his shop.

Farrior spent two years in Birmingham working for the privately owned Birmingham Broom and Mop before moving in late spring 1950 to AIB, which had started a broom shop in 1945. On Oct. 1, 1950, Hendrix joined Farrior at AIB.

Shortly after Hendrix’s arrival at Farrior’s recommendation, Hendrix became the broom shop’s first official foreman, said John Granger, who worked at AIB during the duo’s tenure.

Hendrix played a key role in the shift to a commercial broom shop. The staff increased from two broom makers to eight and Hendrix began peddling the fruits of the shop’s labor.

“We started selling brooms to Piggly Wiggly, Alabama Power Company and other local businesses,” Farrior said. “When he came on board, all the brooms we made were selling for 75 cents per dozen. Hendrix took control of the process and set prices for the different types of brooms we made. We began selling whisk brooms for 50 cents a dozen, house brooms for 75 cents a dozen and warehouse brooms for 95 cents a dozen.”

Granger attributed Hendrix’s attention to detail and his aggressive marketing ability as a key reason for the shop’s success.

“He could take any of those eight men’s brooms and he could tell you which man made the broom and how much it weighed — he was that good,” Granger said. “He could remember from year to year how many dozen brooms the Lions Club bought.”

Hendrix kept steady control over the operation until he retired in 1966. He died in 1969.

Farrior, who already has a place on the “Wall of Fame” as 1973’s Blind Employer of the Year in Alabama, called Hendrix’s posthumous induction “long overdue.”

“If we don’t capture it pretty quickly, then the Willie Farriors and John Grangers won’t be here to tell us the story and it becomes lost,” Sparkman said.

Contact Shane Dunaway at sdunaway@dailyhome.com.

© 2013