Dallas businessman Comer Cottrell became a powerful force in the hair care industry by making the salon-exclusive Jheri-Curl product available to the masses at an affordable rate.
Cottrell died last week at the age of 82, leaving his mark on a variety of successful ventures along the way. Cottrell, a native of Mobile, Ala., joined the Air Force and achieved the rank of First Sargent before leaving the military and joining the Sears Roebuck company. In 1964, he rose to a position of division manager for Sears.
However, it was six years later that Cottrell would take his career to new levels. In 1970 with just $600 and a broken typewriter, Cottrell and his brother, James, began Pro-Line Corp, a hair company with an emphasis on products for Black consumers.
Early on, scented Afro sheen sprays were among Pro-Line’s top products. It was in 1970 that Cottrell shifted focus and released his revolutionary “Curly Kit” product, which took the $200 Jheri-Curl salon treatment down to a $8 at-home kit that customers could apply themselves.
Cottrell’s company was one of the largest owned by Blacks at the time, helping push his sales into the millions in just six months. In 1980, Cottrell moved Pro-Line to Dallas to help grow the business. By the end of the decade, Cottrell was a major player in the Dallas business scene and sat atop the Black hair care industry.
Cottrell was the first Black person to own a stake in a Major League Baseball team with the Texas Rangers. He and fellow Republican and former president George W. Bush were part of an investment group that owned the Rangers. Cottrell was also part of the powerful Dallas Citizens Council and worked to expand minority business ownership in the region.
Cottrell used his considerable wealth to promote education within the Black community. In 1990, he bought the campus of now-defunct HBCU Bishop College in Dallas and transferred it to the A.M.E. Church’s Paul Quinn College.
Cottrell also sat on several boards, including the NAACP, YMCA and the National Urban League among others. After Pro-Line became a part of the Alberto-Culver company in 2000.
Cottrell is survived by widow Felisha Starks Cottrell, sons Comer, Aaron, Bryce and Lance, daughter Renee Cottrell-Brown, nine grandchildren and one great-grandchild.