Thursday, March 31, 2011

Remembering 'Ole Lester'

Posted By on Thu, Mar 31, 2011 at 5:24 PM

Browsing the Net for restaurant news, I came across this blast from the past — from August 14, 1964, to be exact. It's an article in the Milwaukee Journal entitled "Segregationist Closes His Restaurant."

It's hard to believe that it wasn't even 50 years ago that Atlanta's restaurants were severely segregated. Lester Maddox, the subject of the article, owned a popular restaurant called the Pickrick, which specialized in fried chicken. On Saturdays, the AJC published an advertisement for the restaurant that mixed Maddox's rants about desegregation and states' rights with descriptions of his menu.

"Pickrick drumsticks" became his racist trademark. They were axe handles of the type he brandished at uppity black people who tried to enter his restaurant. He sold them to diners as souvenirs. Some time after he closed his restaurant, he had a shop in Underground Atlanta where he continued to sell them.

Shockingly, Maddox ran for governor in 1967 and, thanks to the Georgia General Assembly, won. He was an international embarrassment, in part due to an Esquire article by the most ferocious bitch of New Journalism, Rex Reed. Weirdly, it's indisputable that Maddox did more to desegregate Georgia's state government than any preceding governor. "Ole Lester," as he was known, later served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Jimmy Carter, an entertaining match made in hell.

There were other restaurants in Atlanta where the civil rights battle was waged, including Leb's, even before the Pickrick. Institutionalized racism flourished at Aunt Fanny's Cabin well after the Civil Rights Act and Pascal's was the hangout of most of the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement.

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