Melvin Pickens, who became known to generations of Little Rock residents as The Broom Man, died Sunday night. He was 84 and had been unable to work for several years.
He came to Little Rock in 1951 and like a number of people with visual impairments in that time, began selling brooms, among other work. He was the last still pursuing the broom trade, according to an article Eric Francis wrote several years ago. For decades, he walked a regular route from Cantrell and Mississippi into the Heights business district along Kavanaugh Boulevard, selling brooms from various makers. My last purchase from Pickens, still in use, is a red-handled model with corn fibers from the Little Rock Broom Works.. Everette Hatcher, president of the Broom Works, brought me the news of his passing.
Pickens’ six decades of work drew attention from many, including a piece on the CBS Evening News in 2013.
I’ll add some funeral information when I have it.