Walter Daniels Sr. once said of his legacy in Coconut Grove, “I may never have the red Corvette I’ve always dreamed of, but I do a good job taking care of people.”
Prince can have his little red Corvette. Daniels, a businessman on Grand Avenue in the Grove since 1966, had the respect of countless folks he had come to groom as a barber at Walter’s Alterations. He envisioned a chain. He left it to his son to make that happen.
Daniels died Jan. 6 at age 69.
His clients included actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and former Miami Heat center Alonzo Mourning, and he also was the main barber for the University of Miami football team in the ’90s.
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“People say to me he was Mr. Coconut Grove,” said son Walter Daniels Jr., who has taken over the haircutting business at the shop. “Everybody in the Grove looked to him to get advice. He played more of a counselor role for almost the entire Coconut Grove.”
Born Dec. 22, 1946, in Tifton, Georgia, Daniels moved to Liberty City in the early 1960s and started his family business with his brother Willie Leonard in the Grove at 3671 Grand Ave. by tailoring suits. By 1991, Daniels took over the operations, and his business did it all: clothing alterations, shoe repairs and haircuts in a six-chair shop. At the helm, a laid-back man with an enormous facility for forgiveness.
He had a passion for helping people and I’ve had a few people say to me he was Mr. Coconut Grove.
Walter Daniels Jr. on his businessman, pastor father Walter Daniels Sr.
His son, who worked alongside his father for 15 years, remembers the time a guy broke into the shop and stole suits. Daniels, who would spend more than 20 years as pastor at Bright Morning Star Baptist Church, reported the crime. Police collared the suspect and Daniels dutifully identified him, but then told the police that he wanted the man released. “After being released, my dad mentored the guy and gave him a job.”
He would tell his son his goal in life was to help others. “He always would tell me, ‘A man is not judged by how much money he has but by how many people he’s helped.”
On the Saturday before he died, Daniels, who lived in South Miami, told his son he wanted him to accomplish two things in his absence: pursue his son’s dream of opening a recording studio for gospel artists, and turn Walter’s Alterations, which, over the years has also been known as Walter Alter’s Barbershop and Mr. Walt’s Full Service, into a chain.
“He wanted to make sure the barbershop and the legacy keeps going,” Daniels Jr. said. “I made him a promise I would.”
In addition to his son, Daniels is survived by his wife, Barbara Daniels, and daughters Latonia and Jennifer Daniels and 10 grandchildren. Services are pending.