Skip to comments.Barbecue eatery owner, segregationist Maurice Bessinger dies at 83
Posted on 02/24/2014 7:22:27 AM PST by Gamecock
COLUMBIA, SC Maurice Bessinger, who was as famous for his barbecue shops and sauces as he was for his diehard segregation stands, has died at 83.
A Korean war veteran, a gentlemanly demeanor, a businessman who grew a restaurant business that employed 200 employees, a devout Baptist who supported missionaries abroad, Bessinger in many ways had a background as American as the finger-licking tasty Southern food his establishments were known for.
"I'm just a fair man. I want to be known as a hard-working, Christian man that loves God and wants to further (God's) work throughout the world as I have been doing throughout the last 25 years," he told a State reporter in 2000.
But he was also known for his deeply divisive racial stands he believed slavery was good for black people, for example and his losing stand in a landmark civil rights lawsuit brought by famed South Carolina lawyer and later federal Judge Matthew Perry. His racial beliefs, though outmoded in todays modern world, were once common among many Southern whites.
In 2000, after The State newspaper disclosed that Bessinger was distributing pro-slavery tracts at his Maurices Gourmet Barbecue headquarters in West Columbia under the shadow of an enormous Confederate flag he flew outside people began boycotting his eateries. Stores and the U.S. military yanked his well-known mustard barbecue sauce from their shelves. He would claim the boycott cost him millions.
At the time, Bessinger who denied in interviews that slave-owners treated blacks cruelly was also distributing pro-slavery audio tapes and gave customers a discount if they bought his literature. South Carolina had biblical slavery, Bessinger claimed, which was different than other kinds of slavery.
In addition to triggering a boycott of Bessinger products, the disclosure of his pro-slavery views prompted SCANA to ban company vehicles from being parked in his restaurants parking lots.
In the 1950s and 1960s, Bessinger was a crusading white supremacist, doing everything he could to deny blacks equal rights. He put signs in his stores saying blacks werent welcome, He believed, he said in interviews, that any form of race mixing might lead to impure dilution of white blood.
"YOU are WHITE because your Ancestors believed in SEGREGATION!" reads an old tract that promoted a group Bessinger once was president of: the National Association for the Preservation of White People.
In the 1960s, Bessinger tried to prevent blind black singer Stevie Wonder from singing at the University of South Carolina. "You may not agree with my feelings that jungle music is for jungle people, but the hatred and upheavals caused by recent forced race-mixing must concern us both," Bessinger wrote the then-USC president.
In 1963, Bessinger became angry at a Spartanburg restaurant owner who had integrated his restaurant. Bessinger met with other restaurant owners to force the man to resign as president of the S.C. Restaurant Association.
In July 1964, Bessinger - who at that time owned four Piggie Park restaurants - stood in the door of one of his stores to prevent a black minister from entering. Bessinger would allow blacks to buy food to take out, but not to eat in his restaurant. African-Americans represented by then civil rights lawyer Matthew Perry, took him to court.
In 1968, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against Bessinger , 8-0.
In 2000, Bessinger told a State reporter he had no regrets about fighting that lawsuit.
"It is really a constitutional right - whether a man has the right to run his business without governmental interference," he said then.
In 2004, Bessinger contributed $1,000 to a candidate for the U.S. Senate who openly advocated secession just as South Carolinians had done in 1860 in an act that triggered the Civil War.
The chain of restaurants owned by Bessinger is now in the hands of his familys second generation.
A few months ago, they pulled down the last two of the Confederate flags that once flew proudly over his restaurants.
In an interview with The State in October, second-generation Lloyd Bessinger said he was purposely shifting away from the politics that were important to his father and moving towards focusing on the business.
The family-run business wants to stay neutral and appeal to people, whatever their political party, he said.
Dad liked politics, Lloyd Bessinger told State reporter Kristy Rupon. Thats not something were interested in doing. We want to serve great barbecue.
Thompson Funeral Home in West Columbia is in charge.
His BBQ just wasn’t all that good, IMHO
It took me a couple years of living in West Columbia to warm up to yellow barbecue. But, once I tried it, I really liked it. WCola wouldn’t be the same without “The Flying Pig”.
Whoaaa we wouldn't want that!
He'll have to answer for that sin too.
That is the way God intended BBQ to be made.
well... although I think it’s bad business to exclude any group of customers, I will always argue that a business should have the right to deny service to anyone they wish for any reason they wish.
“It is really a constitutional right - whether a man has the right to run his business without governmental interference,” he said then.
Regardless of his other stances, he was right about that.
Social engineering doesn’t trump property rights and freedom of association. Except in the mind of leftists/statists.
He was anything but a horrible person. A lot of his attitudes were from the era in which he grew up, and even those attitudes softened in his later years. Most of his black workers loved him. He was kind gracious and charitable.
This is one last jab from a screaming liberal news rag that despised Mr. Bessinger and anything Confederate. Most of what is printed here is slanted and taken out of context. They found not one kind thing to say, and he was a very kind man. RIP, sir.
i’ve been in North Carolina for a year now, and i just do not liking “vinegar” barbeque... i am a California gal, and i guess i am used to the Texas-type barbeque... i love it!
May your find eternal rest in the arms of Jesus Christ, Mr. Bessinger.
So many Freepers are so I’ll informed and suffocated by post 1990 narrative
Bless their hearts
Must really pump them up to feel so superior to all who came before them
Segregation is a sin?
I must have missed that.
Me and the founding fathers.
Mostly all pre 1970s Americans....including the noble Yankees
White segregationists tended to come from areas with large black populations...often the majority or close
They feared black rule having observed what they saw as pitfalls in group black behavioral patterns from decades
Ask anyone who lives in a majority or near majority black city if their fears were unfounded.
I grew up in this and was obnoxiously libtard in arguing with the evil discrimi actors but now living in the mess we’ve created I recognize my folly
Not sure what we could have done...not creating a dependence class would have helped but the issues predate that which just made it worse
The whole world discriminates and segregates and strives to maintain cultural and ethnic/racial identity integrity
Only in the demonized west is this the ultimate sin....punishable by law
And hence we will crumble away into brown polyglot dust in the future as a result and take all our resented civilization with us....but at least we can’t be called bigots anymore...the horror
So prepare your spawn...gonna be a rough downward spiral
Yeah, what’s up with Cole slaw on BBQ in NC? That was a particularly nasty surprise when I ordered a lovely pulled pork sandwich and found slaw on it. Ugh.
RIP to a very fine gentleman.
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