Katherine Johnson. Photo: Courtesy of Edward Slaughter

“Ms. J was an independent godly woman from the South.”

These words were used by Garland Albert Sr. to describe longtime South Berkeley barber Katherine Johnson — better known around town as “Ms. J” and “Punkin” — who died Aug. 7 after a long battle with cancer. For over 30 years, she has widely been regarded as one of the most highly touted barbers in Berkeley’s black community, in a field still dominated by men.

Johnson ran Just Cuts, a barbershop she launched in South Berkeley in the 1990s. The shop closed last week, and will be remembered fondly by its many loyal customers, who describe it as one of the most influential barbershops in the city.

“Being a lady, she had to endure people who thought she would be an easy mark,” Albert said. “But, as we all know, she demanded respect and was loyal to her soil.”

For those unfamiliar with the expression, it means that Johnson always put her community first.

Continue reading in Berkeleyside’s Obituaries section, and feel free to leave your messages of condolences and memories in the Comments there.

Berkeleyside is always honored to publish, at no charge, obituaries of members of the Berkeley community. Please email text and photo(s) to editors@berkeleyside.com.

Berkeleyside staff

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