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Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

< Back to Oral History project: North Carolina BBQ


Donald Williams & Kevin Lamm

If barbecue is big business in North Carolina, Parker’s Barbecue is a veritable warehouse of whole-hogism. Located in the eastern city of Wilson, Parker’s serves over 150 smoked pigs and 8,000 fried chickens to 20,000 customers each week. Catering to crowds is part of the Parker’s mythos; on one brilliant afternoon in 1954, founders Ralph Parker, Graham Parker, and Henry Parker Brewer fed 17,000 chopped barbecue plates in one day. Despite the crowds here, little details maintain that small-joint feel. Donald Williams and Kevin Lamm (2 of the 3 owners) greet each patron at the entrance. On this Sunday, families came from different church services, greeted one another in the parking lot, and queued up in the ever-increasing line. Inside Parker’s, a group of young men in 1950s-style, white paper caps stood in formation ready to usher the next group to their table. Almost no one needs a menu. The Parkers would be proud to see their dining room so full. Ralph Parker, the last surviving of the three “brothers,” still regularly holds court, sipping a cup of coffee. He recently conceded that Parker’s “barbecue is better than it has ever been.”

Ralph Parker passed away on July 4, 2013. He was 89.

Date of interview:
2011-11-27 00:00

Rien T. Fertel

Denny Culbert

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