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Since 1966 James Lee “Jackie” Hite has served as the Fire Chief, Water Commissioner, a City Councilman, Magistrate, and Mayor (three terms) of Leesville, South Carolina. He also smokes barbecue. Thus he serves his people two ways, through politics and pork; “Once you been there,” Hite says “you can’t get it out of your blood.”
He opened Jackie Hite’s Bar-B-Q, across the railroad tracks from town, in May 1979. He learned the trade from his father, a plumber, fisherman, and part-time barbecue man. During the annual Firemen’s Balls, while the people square danced in the streets, little Jackie would help his father with the hog smoking, staying up all night, watching, waiting, and doing what he was told. Today, the pigs are still hickory-smoked, the sauce, mustard and vinegar and pepper.
He is 72 years old and underwent open-heart surgery five years ago; his constituents are begging him to run for mayor again. He just might—as long as he doesn’t quit cooking barbecue.