Short job turns into lifetime career at the John Marshall Barber Shop




4 Campbell Montero(Hugh Campbell provides a haircut and banter with regular customer Ken Montero. Chloe Simpson/The Capital News Service) 



If it wasn’t for the spinning white, red and blue barber pole, one might easily pass right by one of the most historic locations within the Richmond city limits. Tucked into the E. Franklin Street side of the Hotel John Marshall, The John Marshall Barber Shop is a living time capsule of Richmond from 1929 to the present.

Opening on Oct. 29, 1929, the day the stock market fell, the shop has managed to withstand the great depression, the closing of The Hotel John Marshall, displacement during hotel renovations, and many other ups and downs within the city.

Most of the shop’s success can be attributed to owner and manager Hugh Campbell, who bought the shop in 1987 after working there for 20 years.

“I went to barber school to get a deferment during the Vietnam War, to get into the Air Guard with some friends of mine,” Campbell said. “That’s the only reason I went to barber school. I got off of active duty and then I had 18 months to get my apprenticeship. … I asked a guy one day ‘where’s a good place to cut hair for 18 months?’ he said ‘John Marshall Barber Shop.’ I walked in, and my boss, Mr. Hicks, called me two days later and said, ‘you want that job, young fella?’ I said ‘what the heck, I can do 18 months.’ And that was 50 years ago.”

Campbell never intended to make a career out of cutting hair, and though he has been successful in doing so, he does not consider what he does to be work. When his friends and clients ask him about any plans for retirement, he responds that he would have to go to work first for that to be possible, a sentiment he passes on to his staff.

“Never make it work,” Campbell says. “Enjoy being here.”

And watching Campbell work, it is clear that this is something he truly believes, not something said just to rally his troops.

As he cut the hair of Ken Montero, a regular at the shop since the 1980’s, it is quickly obvious that their relationship is much more than that of client and barber.

Campbell and Montero immediately begin teasing each other about parole officers and aliases for the week, as well as the “sheep shearing” Montero said he needs. But their friendship has a sincere side to it as well.  Montero is also eager to tell stories of Campbell’s successes and good deeds, as well as point out the wall of fame, which features some of the more recent Virginia governors to frequent the shop.

“We’ve got some characters up there, but they’re all good though,” Campbell said. “… We’ve done them all since 1929. The first one I did was Albertis Harrison. … I was nervous, man. A governor in my chair? … now all I get is people like this [gesturing to Montero]. It’s different than it used to be.”

Though times have changed, and Campbell no longer takes on any new clients, including politicians, he has worked hard to maintain the original 1920’s charm and design of the shop.

The mirrors, floor and built-in shelves are all original. One thing Campbell truly wishes had been kept were the original chairs, but he has stayed true to the shop’s history by keeping the chairs that were brought in in the late 1960’s, built-in ashtrays and all. The two small flat-screen televisions are the only sign that it is 2018, and not the 1920’s or 60’s.

“We have a special place here,” Campbell said about the chairs. “It has a special history and I wanted to maintain it. And it’s nothing like it.”

The barber shop also offers a limited menu of services, like those that would have been offered in 1929: haircuts, shaves, shoeshines, beard trim and men’s manicures.

In the 89 years that the shop has been open, numerous celebrities from Elvis Presley to Brock Lesnar have visited. However, state and local politicians have provided the most steady stream of clients.

Campbell said traffic picks up when the General Assembly is in session, with legislators and lobbyists coming in for services. And though he admits it can get contentious when legislators from opposite sides of the aisle are in at the same time, he assures that it is always in a fun way. He also can’t help but compare the newer legislators to those he saw when he started in 1967.

“They come in, ‘I can’t believe you voted for that,’ ‘well I had to…’” Campbell said. “But that old school was so different than the new school. …it’s different but not in a bad way. There were real characters you had back then.”

The joking relationship Campbell has with clients like Montero is not exclusive to the shop’s non-political clients. Campbell happily showed off a bottle of Trump Wine that he had gotten and placed on his desk, just where former Gov. Terry McAuliffe would be able to see it while getting his hair cut by Campbell’s employee, Kim Cogbill.

Campbell says McAuliffe called him out, commenting,  “Hugh, what are you doing? That isn’t funny.”

McAuliffe is a loyal client of Cogbill, who cut his hair for his official portrait. An autographed copy of the portrait hangs on the shop wall by the clock, and McAuliffe also gave Cogbill her own copy that she keeps in her home.

Cogbill has worked in the industry for 33 years, but has only been at The John Marshall Barber Shop for the last five.

“I love [the shop]. If I would have known 20-30 years ago about this place I would have come. But I was always West End/Short Pump.”

As Campbell reminisces about his 50 years at the shop, he still finds it hard to believe he has made a career out of something that was supposed to be an 18-month gig.

“I still don’t know how I got here, and that’s the honest truth,” Campbell said. “I’m glad it happened though.”

“We are too,” Montero replied.


Senators pass bill requiring verified social studies credit to graduate


A bill that would ensure that Virginia’s high school students are required to earn a verified social studies credit to graduate passed the Senate and now sits in a House subcommittee.

Sen. Stephen Newman, R-Forest, introduced the bill, SB 969, on Jan. 19. Sen. Jennifer McClellan, D-Richmond, was the bill’s only other patron in the Senate, which approved it 38-1 on Feb, 6.

“The purpose of SB 969 is to provide statewide accountability for social studies since the subject is no longer part of Virginia’s accreditation system,” McClellan wrote in an email. “The Standards of Accountability were revised and implemented this past January, no longer evaluating schools on proficiency in social studies as a school-quality indicator.”

If it is passed by the House of Delegates and becomes law, the bill would amend the Code of Virginia to compel the Board of Education to require high school students to earn one verified credit in history and social science before they graduate.

“The bill is meant to make certain that students receive solid instruction in American and Virginia history,” Newman said in an interview. He added that social studies are just as absolutely integral to an education as other subjects such as math or literature.

“We need to know our history,” Newman said. “I want to make sure we have a standard of learning that measures knowledge of our history. We’ve done that for many decades and I’d like to see us continue it.”

McClellan agreed that teaching social studies and measuring students’ knowledge of the subject is necessary for a holistic education.

“As Confucius once stated, ‘You must study the past if you would define the future,’ ” McClellan wrote. “I would add that a study of the past is necessary to understand its implications for the present. That is why social studies is such an important part of our K-12 education.”

Newman noted that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires standardized tests for math, science and English, but not social studies. President Barack Obama signed ESSA into law in 2015, replacing President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act.

“ESSA gives them some latitude not to have SOL tests for social studies, and I don’t think we should do that,” Newman said. “I think we should treat social studies like we have for many decades.”

Both senators upheld the value of statewide standardized tests.

“Statewide accountability for social studies instruction that includes content on the development of our country and culture,” McClellan wrote, “while developing lifelong skills required for an engaged citizenry, helps to ensure a foundation those students.”

Newman expressed a similar sentiment and dismissed the argument that standardized testing can distract educators from effectively teaching material because of the pressure to prepare students for them. People who assert this need a deeper understanding of how public education functions, Newman said.

“That’s an old liberal argument that’s not related to what the reality is today,” Newman said.

Ultimately, the senators said they support the bill because they believe it will benefit the future of Virginia’s children.

“The goal is to change how social studies instruction is delivered to students in order to develop and master historical thinking skills,” McClellan wrote, “such as using information sources, questioning and using critical thinking skills, making economic decisions and exercising civic responsibility.”

Assembly passes measures to change child support process


The process by which courts determine parents’ child support obligations in custody suits is being adjusted by the General Assembly’s passing of two complimentary bills last week.

The bills were proposed in tandem by a Richmond-area senator and a Hampton Roads delegate. Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, proposed and was the sole patron of the bills, which both passed the Senate and the House on Feb. 21. Sturtevant introduced both on Jan. 19.

Sturtevant’s bills were identical to two in the House of Delegates proposed by Del. James Leftwich, R-Virginia Beach. The General Assembly passed both of these bills on Feb. 19.

Sturtevant’s first bill, SB981, establishes methods to calculate a parent’s child support obligation in cases where parents have multiple custody arrangements for different children. An example of such a case would be one where a mother has sole custody of her youngest child, but both the father and the mother share joint custody of their oldest child. Virginia courts had no uniform method with which to calculate child support obligation in these cases before the bill, Sturtevant wrote in an email.

SB981 “sets clear rules to assist with calculating guidelines in these complex situations and ensure that obligations are calculated consistently throughout the state,” Sturtevant wrote.

The second bill, SB92, requires that courts provide parents involved in custody suits with a calculation worksheet that outlines how they tallied the amount of money in their child support orders.

“The genesis for this bill is that in some cases you had parents who did not understand the reasons for their child support obligations,” Sturtevant said about SB982 in a Feb. 5 meeting of the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice. “This would provide them with the guidelines.”

In the committee meeting on Feb. 5, Sen. Richard Stuart, R-Westmoreland, expressed concerns that SB982 would compromise parents’ privacy. He asked if the guideline worksheets that courts would be obligated to give to parents under the new law would contain salary data and personal information about the parents. He also inquired about whether the worksheets would be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA.

“If it is subject to FOIA, then everybody can now have these parents’ personal information,” Stuart said.

Sturtevant was unable to answer either of Stuart’s questions.

However, the Deputy Commissioner for the Division of Child Support Enforcement, Craig Burshem, was on hand to respond. While Burshem acknowledged that the worksheets will contain data such as the gross incomes of both parents, healthcare expenses and insurance premium information, he said they would not be subject to FOIA.

“This is private information,” Burshem said. “They are not public records.”

Other than an abstention from Stuart at the Committee for Courts of Justice meeting, the bills received unanimous support as they moved through the General Assembly.

“We did not anticipate or receive any opposition to these common-sense solutions,” Sturtevant wrote.

Joint town hall shows bipartisanship, delegates say


For two Chesterfield County delegates, bipartisan conversation is something that is achievable, but often missing, from the General Assembly this session.

Del. Dawn Adams, D-68, and Del. Robert Lee Ware, R-65, held a joint town hall meeting at James River High School on Saturday afternoon where the delegates explained the legislative process, discussed pending legislation and provided updates on the political climate of the General Assembly this year.

Adams, who is currently serving her first term in the General Assembly, said she was surprised at how little debate takes place on the House floor.

“As a citizen who is now a citizen-legislator, it’s a big surprise to me how fast everything happens, and how little conversation happens,” she said.

Ware, who is serving his 21st term, attributed this lack of debate to House Speaker Kirk Cox, a Republican who also represents parts of Chesterfield County and Colonial Heights.

“Our two most recent speakers have been efficiency guys,” Ware said. “Our current speaker is a long-time high school government teacher, and you can see it sometimes in his expression, as if we were unruly kids every so often and he wants us to move on.”

The delegates also discussed major policy issues that have been divisive among legislators in the House, including the budget and debates over whether the state should participate in Medicaid expansion.

Ware, who is the chairman of the House Committee on Finance, said that he had heard from members of both the House and Senate that the differences between the budgets proposed by the two chambers this year would be larger than most years.

“I have gotten indications from members of both chambers that the budgets will be as far apart as they have been in  modern memory,” he said. “That’s pretty unusual.”

The House Appropriations Committee and the Senate Committee on Finance both adopted their proposed budgets yesterday. Senate Majority Leader James Norment, R-James City, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch that he estimated a $600 million difference between the two proposed budgets.

Ware and Adams also discussed Medicaid expansion during the town hall, and held differing views on how the state should address the issue.

Adams, who had worked as a nurse practitioner and as the director of the Office of Integrated Health for the Virginia Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services prior to serving in the General Assembly, said that she supported Medicaid expansion, and criticized legislators for not expanding the program sooner.

“I believe if we had had the vision to take the money down and utilize it in a way and look for models of excellence that would have drove down the cost during that time, we would be ahead of the  game,” Adams said.

Ware, holding an opposing view, said that although he sympathized with Virginians who would benefit from expanding the program, he was not convinced that doing so would be economically sustainable.

“I have not been convinced that putting more federal debt on our grandkids in this way and other ways is the way to  go,” Ware said.

In response to a constituent’s question on federal Medicaid funding, Ware said that one future challenge for the state legislature would be having to change the way the state administers the program if Congress enacts changes to how it will provide Medicaid funding to the states.

“That is one of the challenges whenever you accept federal funding,” Ware said. “When you accept that legislation, you accept all the regulations and rules that go with it.”

Courtroom therapy dog bill advances, waits next step



On a day she has described as one of the most devastating in her life, a Stafford County woman says she was comforted by one thing: a Labrador retriever named Kahn.

“[Kahn] asked no questions, passed no judgment, just gave me unconditional love. He was a wonderful gift from God.”

These words were written by a victim of domestic violence, who wanted to thank the Stafford County Courthouse for allowing Kahn, the residential courtroom therapy dog, to be by her side while she recounted her experience of abuse.

In 2011, Stafford employed Kahn as the first facility courthouse dog in Virginia. Since then, only three other counties—Fraquier, Albermale and Staunton—have followed suit, according to the Courthouse Dogs Foundation.

Charlottesville Republican Del. Robert Bell is advocating for a bill, HB 482, that would give witnesses in every courthouse in Virginia the right to request a therapy dog.

The bill, however, is proving to be one of the more controversial pieces of legislation in the General Assembly this year.

Bell, who served as a prosecutor for five years, is backing the bill with hopes that it will make court rooms less intimidating for victim witnesses, particularly children.

“Most of these kids are talking about cases where they were sexually abused,” Bell said. “This is stuff they don’t even want to talk to their parents about.”

Many legislators across party lines, however, believe that witness comfort should not be a priority in the courtroom. Sen. Richard Black, R-Leesburg, believes that dogs would unfairly diminish the seriousness of the preceding.

“I voted against that because traditionally we have not allowed things in the courtroom that would make it more comfortable for people to testify,” Black said.

Black’s statement about comfort items, however, is inaccurate in regard to child testimony. According to 18 U.S. Code § 3509, a testifying child can be provided emotional support by an adult attendant. At the court’s discretion, the child may be allowed to sit in the adult’s lap, hold the adult’s hand or maintain some other form of close physical proximity.

Bell’s bill would not break ground as the first piece of legislation to advocate for witness comfort. It would simply be the first in Virginia to specifically address the liberties that trained facility dogs have in courtrooms.

Sandra Barker, director of the VCU Center for Human and Animal Interaction, admits that when a person is viewed with a dog, they are viewed more favorably.

“Why do you think individuals running for office always picture themselves with their family and a dog?” she questioned.

Nevertheless, Barker believes that therapy dogs would provide a valuable service in courtrooms.

“I’ve seen the benefits of therapy dogs in my clinical practice with victims of sexual assault,” Barker said.

Eric Olsen, the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Stafford, adamantly supports that Kahn has only ever served as a calming presence, rather than a distraction.

“The only way he could have some kind of undue influence is if it was a jury trial, as opposed to a judge trial, and usually these kinds of cases are just heard by the judge,” Olsen said. “Even then, the jury doesn’t even know Kahn is in the courtroom. The witness sits behind the podium, and Kahn just lies at their feet.”

HB 482 passed the Senate on Feb. 14 and has been placed on the House calendar, where it awaits review.






Bill narrowly passes to add other distractions to phone use while driving


Imagine getting pulled over by a police officer because you had your phone in your hand. When the officer pulls you over for probable cause of texting and driving, you simply say ‘I wasn’t texting, I was on Facebook.’

As ridiculous as an excuse like this sounds, it is not unheard of, according to Del. Christopher E. Collins, R-Warren.

Why? Because there is no statute that explicitly states that you cannot use your phone for things other than texting while driving, which is why Collins proposed a bill to change that.

The bill, HB 181, states that if a phone is substantially distracting a person from the operation of his or her motor vehicle, the driver can be found guilty of distracted driving. This traffic infraction is punishable by a fine of not more than $500.

“This, ladies and gentlemen, is in response to 6,000 individuals killed annually in the United States, a half a million are injured,” Collins said during a House session. “The CDC estimates that’s 9 deaths per day as well as 100,000 injuries per day from distracted driving.”

Collins also emphasized that the update to current law was necessary given the limitations of the current texting and driving statute.

“We’ve worked over the last couple years to try to tighten up the language and this is what we’ve come up with,” Collins said.

Other members of the House, however, thought that the language presented in the bill had not been tight enough.

Del. Sam Rasoul, D-Roanoke,  said the bill allowed for too much ambiguity, particularly with its usage of the word “substantial.”

“I’m not saying this is a bad bill,”  Rasoul said. “But it’s not very clear to us, to many of us, what ‘substantially diverts’ actually will mean.”

After the rejecting the first substitution and agreeing to the second on Feb. 12, the House defeated the bill in a 47-53 vote on Feb. 13.

But on that same day, the House agreed to reconsider the defeated bill.

Del. Jeffery M. Bourne, D-Richmond, told the House he opposed the bill because its ambiguity might lead to unfortunate implications.

“It would allow and add to the list of traffic offenses that some are pulled over for in a pretextual way, and those pretextual stops are disproportionately affecting men and women of color,” Bourne said. “Many issues that we deal with are not black and white, but equal, fair and consistent application of the law may be one of those that unfortunately still is.”

The reconsideration of HB 181 led to its passage in a 50-47 vote. It was sent to the Senate Committee for Courts of Justice.

House considers bills to expunge some alcohol, pot, fake ID infractions


People under the age of 21 convicted of possession of alcohol, marijuana or the use of a false ID could petition for expungement if new legislation is successful in the House this month.

The Senate passed three bills overlapping in these areas, including SB 334, SB 403 and SB 954. SB 334 and SB 954 will be heard next by the House Appropriations committee, while SB 403 goes to the House Courts of Justice committee.

Sen. Mark J. Peake, R-Amherst, proposed SB 334 to allow someone to petition for expungement for underage possession of alcohol or using a false ID if the offense occurred before his or her twenty-first birthday.

Sen. Ryan T. McDougle, R-Hanover, proposed SB 403 to allow someone to petition for expungement of conviction for marijuana possession, underage alcohol possession, and using a false ID to obtain alcohol before the person’s 21st birthday.

Sen. Thomas K. Norment, R-Gloucester, proposed SB 954 to allow the first offense for possession of marijuana to be expunged and to reduce the penalties for possession of marijuana to a fine less than $500.

Peake’s and McDougle’s bill passed the Senate unanimously, and Norment’s bill passed by a vote of 38 to 2.

Previously, the subcommittee decided that the financing of each of the three bills should be the same. A substitute was added to SB 334, SB 403 and SB 954. All three bills were passed unanimously be the Senate Finance committee.

The substitute accomplishes two things, the first concerning the payment of the fee of expungement. “Today if you provide that fee to the clerk’s office, your case is expunged, [and] that fee is returned to you,” McDougle said.

Now, with the substitute, if someone is convicted, the fee is kept by the clerk’s office and used to pay for the processing of these expungements, McDougle explained.

The Senate substitute attached to SB 954 creates a $300 fee, broken up into $150 paid to the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic Fund, leaving the last $150 to the state police to offset administrative costs of expungement.

During the committee meeting, the Heroin and Prescription Opioid Epidemic Fund was part of the substitute applied to all three bills. However, now only SB 954 includes a fee to the fund.

“The fund was eliminated, and the fee would go directly to the state police,” Kyler Hedrick, legislative aide to McDougle, said of SB 403. “We have another substitute on top of Senate bill 403 that got rid of the fund that had been added.”