Slain barber is mourned as joker with warm heart

December 22, 1990|By Roger Twigg

Despite the cold, steady drizzle that fell throughout the day, people were stopping and standing yesterday before the grimy, locked doors of a little one-chair barbershop on Greenmount Avenue where James Oscar Remsburg dispensed $3 haircuts and reigned as resident wit and philosopher.

"Jim was a funny guy. He kidded with everybody. He didn't care if you were white or black," said Lee R. Carter, 30, a frequent visitor and patron of the shop. "He didn't have to advertise. . . . It went by word of mouth. He had Johns Hopkins professors, lawyers and police officers."

That's the way Jim Remsburg liked it, and that's the way it stayed on this eclectic stretch of the 3000 block of Greenmount Avenue for more than 20 years. But it ended Thursday, when three men stormed into the barbershop and demanded Mr. Remsburg's money. Mr. Remsburg, who was well-known in the neighborhood for carrying a lot of cash in his pockets, refused to hand it over.

One of the holdup men shot Mr. Remsburg once in the chest. The 52-year-old barber was killed instantly. The police said a man who was getting his hair cut at the time sat horrified through the shooting but was uninjured.

A police officer on foot patrol heard the shot and summoned other officers to the scene. A 20-year-old man, Freddie Lee Bradshaw of the 500 block of East 36th Street, was arrested and charged with first-degree murder, attempted armed robbery and a felony handgun violation.

He was being held without bail last night at the Northern District lockup. The police said they were still seeking two other suspects.

Patrons of the shop said Mr. Remsburg normally closed his doors at 6 p.m. but had stayed late Thursday night to accommodate a larger than usual number of customers. The robbery occurred about 6:30 p.m., the police said.

In the aftermath yesterday, some of Mr. Remsburg's customers came to stand before the locked doors of the shop to remember.

Paul Williams, 38, who often walks along Greenmount avenuecarrying a portable police scanner, said he heard the shooting report on his radio Thursday night.

"I cried. I really did," Mr. Williams said. "We go back a long time. Nobody had to steal from him. If you were short, he would take care of you. When some of them couldn't pay for their haircut he'd say, 'That's all right. You can owe me.' That's the kind of guy he was."

"I used to have fun" with him, said 12-year-old John Bowman. "He used to tell me to make sure I stayed in school. He said don't try to be a man like me cutting hair. Try to be something better."

The barbershop patrons said Mr. Remsburg, who was 6 feet 1 inch tall and weighed about 240 pounds, apparently never expected violence in his shop because of his size and the fact that he knew and got along with so many people.

"I don't understand it," Mr. Carter said, "Even with the violence today, you wouldn't expect it to happen to him."

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