Rep. John Lewis Responds to the Death of Legendary Restauranteur James Paschal
“James Paschal was an extraordinary man. He was more than a business leader, more than an involved citizen, he was a gifted American who gave so much to Atlanta and the nation. People from around the world came to eat at Paschal’s because they understood the contribution James and his brother made to the Civil Rights Movement.
“The first meal I had in Atlanta, when I moved to the city in June of 1963, was at Paschal’s Restaurant. Then it was located on old West Hunter Street, now Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue. At one time the headquarters of SNCC was right across the street from Paschal’s. We used to refer to the restaurant as Paschal’s Precinct. If you wanted to get a reading on what was happening in the community, you had to check in at Paschal’s to get the pulse of the Atlanta and a line on what was happening throughout the South.
During the Civil Rights Movement, everyone—Hosea Williams, Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, A. Phillip Randolph, and many of the famous black entertainers—ate and visited at Paschal’s. At one time you could buy two pieces of chicken, potato salad, “early peas,” as we called them, two rolls and some peach cobbler for 99 cents plus tax at Paschal’s. The food, the comfortable surroundings, and the welcoming environment helped to fortify us to go out and do battle. The last time I saw Martin Luther King Jr. alive, I was in Paschal’s Restaurant. He had called a coalition of activists together to plan the Poor People’s campaign, and he held that meeting at Paschal’s. The restaurant James and his brother founded played a major role in the Civil Rights Movement.
“James Paschal was a wonderful man, a very quiet man. He was very business-like. He was always concerned that we were comfortable and checked often to make sure the food and service were to our liking. He would ask, “Is everything all right, sir? How are you doing, sir?” He was very polite and spoke to us with dignity and respect. He was a true gentleman.
There was something so stable, so dependable, so real about James Paschal. His very personality, his very being was as solid as a rock. He was very supportive to the Movement in his own quiet, deliberate way. Sometimes when we were having a major crisis, James Paschal might decide to host the meeting—give us our meals on the house—to help facilitate our planning and action. After Martin Luther King Jr.’s funeral, many of us went to eat at Paschal’s. It was like a home away from home.
“We were more than lucky, but very blessed that a man named James Paschal came our way. He made a lasting contribution to the free exercise of civil rights in America, not just for African Americans, but all Americans. He will be deeply missed.”
(202) 226 - 4673