Black’s Barbecue’s Iconic Pitmaster Dies

To trace the lineage of barbecue in the Texas Hill Country, one always includes Black’s BBQ in the mix. It is with a heavy heart that we report that Edgar Clarence Black, Jr. of Black’s BBQ passed away on June 2, 2017, at the age of 91. The Facebook page of Black’s BBQ reported on Sunday that he passed away “at his home surrounded by family and friends.”

A pitmaster of epic proportion, Edgar Black, Jr. took on the family business, founded in 1932 by his father, Edgar Black, Sr. Originally a Czech-German meat market, Black’s BBQ began to serve the smoked meats in the style of “the old country that involved salt, pepper, meat, and wood,” as Texas Monthly‘s Katy Vine reported. The markets evolved into barbecue joints where the meat was sliced at the counter and wrapped in butcher paper.

Black’s BBQ in particular was a product of the Great Depression, formed on a handshake deal between Edgar Sr. and a friend. As Kent Black, son to Edgar Jr., told Eater,

“My grandfather opened in 1932, and at that time my dad, Edgar Jr., was only seven so he was a little too young to be a pit man. He was going to college at Texas A&M and when Pearl Harbor hit, he left to join the Navy. After he came back and finished his college degree he had a job lined up with Exxon but my grandfather said, Hey son, why don’t you help me out at the store for a couple weeks?”

For over six decades, Edgar Jr. and his wife, Norma Jean, worked and eventually took over the business following the death of Edgar Sr. in 1962. Kent Black soon joined his father in the family business in 1958 when he was six years old selling snow cones.

To drive home his father’s work ethic, Kent continued,

“I’m really not exaggerating, they worked here every day for 65 years. I don’t know how they did it.”

Retiring while in their 80s, both Edgar Jr. and Norma Jean were still regularly seen around Black’s BBQ. The Texas Hill Country barbecue scene is missing a great man this morning, and will continue to do so.

It’s time to make a pilgrimage to Black’s in Lockhart to pay your respects to one of the most iconic, hard-working pitmasters in the business. To Edgar Black, Jr., we thank you and hope that there is a barbecue pit always flaming in heaven that you never have to stoke yourself.