It would not be fair to Kenny Melear to just talk about what he did for me. What he did for the county is immeasurable. His generosity was boundless.
You could always count on his donation of a tub of cole slaw at your non-profit event whenever asked.
The county firemen, winter or summer, could always expect Kenny to show up with soft drinks or coffee after a particularly troublesome fire even if he had to get out of bed in the middle of the night.
Back when the election stations numbered only a few dozen, poll workers knew he would be showing up at 7 a.m. with hot coffee and biscuits. However, as our county grew, so grew the number of precincts and he had to give this up.
Both Governor Jimmy Carter had Kenny cater events for him in Georgia, and when former House Speaker, Newt Gingrich was installed, he had Kenny travel all the way to Washington D.C. to serve his barbecue.
Speaking of politics, this restaurant was the place to get the latest information, whether local or national. Heaven only knows how many small time and big time politicians visited here.
Speaking of big names, you might also find folks visiting and enjoying that huge glass of iced tea who were associated with NASCAR, or maybe any of the local race tracks, just pop in.
Organizations such as the Kiwanis Club of Fayette County met here over many decades. Ditto the county lawyers. I have been privileged over my 50 years here to speak in this room on our historical society or maybe give a quick lecture on our county history.
His employees in the kitchen and in the barbecue shed were with him for as many as 30 years, not because they couldn’t find a job anywhere else, but because that was just where they wanted to be.
Every small town has its “good ol’ boys” restaurant and that table inside that only certain people were permitted to sit at. If you weren’t one of those permitted and sat down there, all conversation ceased until you got up and left.
Kenny opened Melears Barbecue in 1957 and closed it in 2011. He served as Chief Magistrate Judge from 1983 until 2003.
The thousands of warm memories he gave us are not dated and will live on as long as we do.