Comer J. Cottrell, Jr.

Comer J. Cottrell, Jr., one of Texas’ leading African American entrepreneurs, was a United States Air Force sergeant stationed in Japan in the early fifties and managing a PX when he noticed that it didn’t carry hair-care products for black soldiers. When he got back to the States, he was a partner in a publishing company and worked sales before pursuing the business opportunity he had spotted years earlier: In 1970 he and his brother James co-founded Pro-Line Corporation, which makes hair-care products for African Americans. In thirty years the company’s product line grew to include such leading brands as Just for Me and Soft and Beautiful. But Cottrell had larger concerns than just the bottom line. He financially rescued predominately black Paul Quinn College, moving it from Waco to the former campus of Bishop College in Dallas, and supported civil rights groups across the country. He also dabbled in sports, becoming a part owner of the Texas Rangers from 1989 to 1998. Last year Dallas-based Pro-Line was acquired by hair-care giant Alberto-Culver for a reported $75 million, and Cottrell stepped down as CEO and chairman. As a condition of the sale, his daughter, Renee, serves as Pro-Line’s executive vice president, and her husband, Eric Brown, is its president. Cottrell himself signed on as a consultant. “He keeps going because he enjoys being busy,” his executive assistant told Eclipse magazine just before the 69-year-old retired. That’s clearly still the case.

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