PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DALLAS MORNING NEWS

Comer Cottrell, an innovative businessman and one of our community's original hair product mixologists, died earlier this week at the age of 82.

Cottrell began his business with only $600 equipped with a typewriter and a bit of curiosity. With some extra time on his hands as a taxicab driver, Cottrell started mixing what came to be known worldwide as Pro-Line, a hair curling product unquestionably similar to the Jheri curl. This product would be different in its obtainability to those who could not afford salon visits with hefty $200-300 price tags.

Soon after his mixology skills began picking up steam, Cottrell rented a warehouse with his brother, James, and another business partner. Pro-Line at-home kits sold retail for $8 in stores, making Cottrell and his business partners a $4 profit per box by 1981. The same year, Forbes magazine said Pro-Line was "the biggest single product ever to hit the black cosmetics market".

Initially focusing on an oil sheen product, and then a detangling spritz, Cottrell and his team branched out with the Kiddie Kit in 1977, a relaxer marketed to young children with textured hair. 

Initially focusing on an oil sheen product, and then a detangling spritz, Cottrell and his team branched out with the Kiddie Kit in 1977, a relaxer marketed to young children with textured hair. He convinced local chemical companies to let him use their chemicals up front at no charge and promised them a bigger payout later.

Sales rose from $1 million to $10 million in the first year alone. Seven years later he invested $500 thousand in the Texas Rangers, a major-league baseball team led by former U.S. President George W. Bush. In 2000, Comer sold his Curly Kit for $75 million to Alberto Culver. He later received a $2.5 million profit off of his investment when the club he was a part of was sold.

Speaking of presidents, Mr. Cottrell held that role for a Los Angeles - based black businessmen's association. In the 1960s Mr. Cottrell served in the United States Air Force, igniting his interest in political endeavors. He became the first black person on the Texas Commerce board. In 1990, he and his wife purchased Bishop College, a historically black college. Next on his agenda was to convince another black school, Paul Quinn College, to move from the small town of Waco, TX, to Dallas. He then donated $1.7 million for their renovation expenses. Five years later, Comer aided in helping Ron Kirk become the first black mayor of the city of Dallas.

Although his transition into predominantly white business and political arenas was not always with welcome and ease, Comer Cottrell left his mark nonetheless.
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