Barbecue patriarch grew more than business

Barbecue patriarch grew more than business

By Kathi Bliss

Editor/POST-REGISTER

 

Texas barbecue has become the “thing of the moment,” largely due to Lockhart’s success in that very field. The community boasts “Oldest in Texas.” It boasts “Oldest in Texas – Same Family.” And it boasts the Congressional recognition of “Barbecue Capitol of Texas.”

The notoriety makes for good headlines. But it will never compare to a granddaughter, shivering on a metal stool, watching her grandfather trim and season more than 100 briskets, every day.

“PopPop would bring me to the restaurant…” Kara Anthony said. “But it was so cold!”

“No, it wasn’t,” chimes in “Grammie,” Norma Jean. “There was no air in that room, so it was cold in the winter, and it was hot in the summer.”

Nonetheless, while six of Edgar Black, Jr.’s grandchildren might agree on little else, they agree on that.

“PopPop always wanted what was best for us,” said Christina Black.

While they recounted sifting through his pockets for Tylenol for his headaches, or quarters for his grandchildren, the one thing they can agree upon is this.

Edgar Black, Jr., loved growing things.

He grew his business, for which most in Lockhart will remember him.

Some were about “bigger, better and best.” Edgar kept it more simple. His touchstone was “known, familiar and right.”

When he saw a child in need, he helped. If he saw injustice in action, he stepped out. Fearlessly groundbreaking, having hired people of color when it was unheard of, and standing for desegregation when such acts were shunned, he held. Standing strong against a community that revered him, whose opinions he didn’t share, he held.

This community knows well, the business and community face of Edgar Black, Jr. That’s a story we don’t need to rehash. Far more fascinating, to know that his grandchildren can’t smell black pepper without thinking of him.

Each is able to recount at least one time they joined their grandfather on his work days, trimming and seasoning the brisket for the now-famed Black’s Barbecue. Recalling those memories brings them back to a time when they began growing their work ethic, before they had even lost their baby teeth.

“I remember [Grammy and PopPop] would watch us over the summer, while our parents were working,” Christina said. “And we would go into the restaurant, and work the register at the drink counter, before we could even see over the counter!”

During the rare times he wasn’t growing his business, or growing his family, Edgar was busy with the plants he treasured.

“He had such a green thumb,” son Terry said. “They had a three-car garage in the house, but you could only get one car in there, because the other two spaces were for his greenhouse.

Indeed, instead of purchasing flowers, when Terry married in 1978, much of the church was decorated with flowers and potted plants from his father’s garden.

“I remember he always had us work in that garden when we were kids,” Barrett said. “He’d get home from work, and go straight out there, and we’d work until the work was done, and it all had to be done perfectly, the first time.”

That, more than anything, is the message that Edgar delivered to his family – do your very best, the first time around. And certainly, he did. One family friend noted, “He wore the tread off the tires, and was riding around on rims!”

Certainly, when he passed away on Friday evening, Edgar could easily boast to St. Peter that he had done his very best. More important than growing a successful business that has branched out to become a household name with both sons and four grandsons actively carrying on the pitmaster tradition, he (along with his constant companion, Norma Jean) grew a loving and successful family, actively involved with six grandchildren and five (soon to be six) great-grandchildren.

“I don’t know how they managed to do it,” grandson Barrett said. “They ran the restaurant all day, but I don’t remember a Little League game, or any activity that any of us did, that they weren’t there for. They just had their chairs in the back of the car, and they always showed up.”

After fighting ill health for several years, Edgar C. Black, Jr., one of Lockhart’s Barbecue Kings, and the patriarch of the Black family, passed away on Friday, June 2, just before 10 p.m. While the community will mourn a business and community leader, who was instrumental in integration and building business, his family will simply remember a man who loved the Astros and taught them to be better people every day.

kathibliss@post-register.com

 

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