“The House of Randles … A Quiet Revolution” — The Warmth of Sankofa by Mae Catherine Godhigh

Gail and Nathaniel Randle
Gail and Nathaniel Randle

 Whether you reach back a half-dozen generations or only a couple, knowing more about the people in your family history teaches you something valuable about yourself. My grandmother was Ellen Randle Gordon and we are going somewhere.

According to our family’s griot, in the early 1800’s, the Randles were shipped to America from England.

The Randles of Lexington, Mississippi and Peoria, IL were never sharecroppers. Around 1829, Jack Randle my paternal ‘gggf’ was sold in slavery from Virginia to the Conner Plantation of Lexington, Mississippi in Holmes County. Jack Randle was the first black man recorded in Holmes County. He gained respect even as a slave.

Gail Randle
Gail Randle

Jack and his wife taught their children how to be skilled and hard workers; making them very valuable assets to the plantation owner. After slavery was abolished, their sons put their money together and bought the Connor’s Place Plantation. “Forty (40) acres and a mule” weren’t good enough. The Randle brothers purchased 773 acres of extended property. Their land deeds are documented in the Holmes County Land Records.

The Randle brothers worked as private farmers for many, years. They built cotton gins, grit and saw mills. The brothers were determined to be self-sustainable and resilient. They were so industrious that a town was named in their honor. Today, Randle-Town is located north of Lexington, MS.

During the Great Migration, three sons and one daughter of Lemon and Susie Randle moved to Peoria, IL. They were Nathaniel Sr. (Lizzie), J.W. Sr. (Mary), A.D. (Glenzie) and Ellen (Willie) Gordon.

In 1966, Nathaniel Jr. and Rosie Lee Randle opened a beauty shop in the basement of their home. It was called Rosie’s Beauty Shop. Thus, became my hair care experience.

In 1969, Nathaniel and Rosie Randle co- founded, owned and operated N&R Beauty Supply at 623 N. McArthur Hwy. It was the first and leading supply distributor of black hair products in the Peoria area. It was the enthusiastic and delightful energy of Rosie Randle and her twin sister Barbara Welch which anchored the shop. Back in the day, the operators were: Lillian McNeary, Lionel Dunn, Ronnie Randle, Westley and Wayne Welch.

Currently the shop is located at 609 South Western Ave. Once inside, an airy, nostalgia and peaceful experience awaits you. Within the walls of this three room operation, are 8 hair dryers, 3 styling chairs and 2 shampoo chairs. The atmosphere is calming, christian and gentile. Old school…if you please. Channel 31 is always the backdrop. Live plants dot the room. Neatly stacked magazines and snacks are within reach. The Traveler Weekly and Peoria Journal are always at your fingertips. Welcome to a drama free zone. Today, the operators are Nathaniel, Randle Jr., Gail Randle (daughter of Nathaniel, Jr. and Rosie Randle) and Marva Stewart.

Tuesday through Saturday, these gifted women cheerfully pamper their customers. Their clientele base comprises of seniors, baby boomers, professionals, educators, retirees, schoolgirls and college students. I guarantee you, before leaving; Nathaniel Jr. will pop in with his award winning smile. Their treatment of customers gets even better. All of their senior citizens are escorted outside to waiting vehicles. Inclement weather or otherwise; no customer is ever left behind. N & R is a place where you can get a warm smile, a blanket, a warmup on your coffee, a napkin and even a hug.

So…who are the Randles? They are simply people who got caught trying. The Randle family serves as a model for what black people can do for themselves. It is the true spirit of entrepreneurship. It is a reminder and a reality of Black Wall Street.

N & R Beauty Shop continues to play an incredibly important role in the hair care business. Nathaniel and Rosie Randle were the original trailblazers for future beauty suppliers in our area. Nathaniel Jr., Gail and Miss Marva, thank you for keeping the torch burning. Thank you for keeping the vision alive. We salute you for 55 years of excellent service and legacy to the Peoria area.

The Randle presence in Peoria:

LA Connection Night Club, LA and Linda Faye Randle

Ethiel’s Flowers, Bibles and More, Ethiel Randle

Revelations Used Cars and Detailing Services, Anthony Randle

Southside Dry Cleaning Services, Anthony and Barbara Randle

LNR Contracting, LeVael Randle, Sr.

Higher Dimensions Praise and Worship Church, Pastor/Founder Robert and Dorothy Randle

Servant of Christ Ministries, Pastor Anthony and Barbara Randle

Brian Randle, American and Euro league basketball player

*Contributing research, Winnie Simpson, Detroit, MI