Many of the 300 people who attended Harold Bonner’s funeral May 2 knew him, not as the former Killeen city councilman, but as the talkative barber from old town Killeen.
Bonner, who died April 29 in Killeen, served three two-year terms on the council — from 1968 to 1973.
Bonner’s Barber Shop, originally in the 400 block of North Gray Street downtown, was known to many as the place where Killeen’s most influential got their hair cut.
Bonner was born Aug. 4, 1928, to Binkley “Buck” and Ruby Bonner in Killeen — a time when the population was just 700 people, said Bonner’s wife, Pat.
“Where the (Bonner) house was, just a mile away from downtown, was just pasture,” Pat Bonner said. “There was only one school in town.”
The oldest of five children, Bonner attended the Avenue D School — which now serves as City Hall.
His father, a Depression-era tenant farmer, moved the family often, working construction at Fort Hood and building dams and lakes throughout Texas as part of Franklin Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps.
Much of young Bonner’s schoolwork was interrupted by work on the family’s farm in south Killeen.
“They would go to school for a week and then they’d pull them out to harvest,” Pat Bonner said. “That was how they were then.”
As a young man, Bonner joined the Freemason’s fraternity and met his wife at a function with the International Order of the Rainbow for Girls, of which she was a member.
Being a barber was the perfect job for Bonner because he was a gifted communicator and was always interested in his community, Pat Bonner said.
“You know everything that was going on when you own a barber shop,” she said.
Bonner’s three daughters had trouble keeping secrets from their parents because all of the gossip ended up at the shop.
“Everybody knew Dad because they got their hair cut there,” Bonner’s oldest daughter, Mitzie Cason, said.
“Every guy I dated got their hair cut by Daddy.”
With City Hall just a block away, the barber shop soon became the place where local officials began to gather and talk politics.
Before long, Bonner became familiar with the important issues of the day — and the officials who ran the city.
Roy Dunlap, who served as Killeen city manager from 1962 to 1968, said the 1960s was a time of financial exigency for the city of Killeen, and Bonner played a role in helping create a better government.
It was at the bidding of many of his barber shop friends and customers that Bonner first put his name in the hat for council in 1968, Pat Bonner said.
“During that time period, the city of Killeen was in real bad financial shape, and with the help of the council we changed a lot of that,” Dunlap said.
Dunlap said when Bonner joined the council, the city was drafting many of its first building and housing codes, municipal laws that even today help the city function.
“Those foundations were built at that time, the city got back on its feet and Harold was a part of that,” Dunlap said.
Bonner served with many great local leaders, including former Mayor Major Blair and former Councilman Bill Turner.
Together they would plan some of the city’s longest lasting landmarks, including the Killeen Community Center and the municipal golf course.
In 1973, after retiring from the council, Bonner moved his barber shop to the 440 Plaza on Fort Hood Street.
The shop is still open, now called Ricky’s Barber Shop, owned and operated by Bonner’s longtime business partner, Ricky Moreno.
“He was a great man, and a lot of his regulars still come in here,” Moreno said.
Major Blair, who died March 27, got his hair cut at Ricky’s Barbershop up until his final years, Moreno said.
Bonner left the barber shop in 1992 but brought his gift for socializing and communicating to the waiting room of his wife and daughter’s business, Bonner’s Income Tax and Service on Gray Street in Killeen.
Bonner would be found every morning in his khaki pants, tie and dress shirt chatting with customers in the lobby, until the final months of his life, his daughter said.
“Dad never met a stranger,” Cason said. “Dad was the kind of man that wanted to be in everything and do everything.”
Contact Brandon Janes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7552