- The Washington Times - Monday, July 28, 2003

ATLANTA (AP) — Paschal’s Restaurant, known as “Black City Hall” for the meetings held there by Martin Luther King and other civil rights leaders, closed for good yesterday after hundreds of people crowded in for one last lunch of fried chicken with grits and biscuits.

The diner that became known as the kitchen of the civil rights movement is to be demolished to make way for a dormitory at historically black Clark Atlanta University.

As she waited in line, Deidre Williams remembered going to Paschal’s as a girl in the 1950s and ‘60s.

“Here, it didn’t seem like we had less because of segregation,” she said. “To me, it was a mansion — a big, fabulous place.”

“It’s like a childhood friend going away,” Ann Wright said. She said she hopes other landmarks in black history do not meet the same fate.

In recent years, only a few loyal customers have patronized the two-room restaurant on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.

Clark Atlanta bought the eatery in 1996 and continued to operate it, but said Paschal’s was losing too much money to be kept open.

“I’m real sad,” said hostess Orah Sherman, who worked at the restaurant for 39 years. “When I went home last night, I couldn’t stop crying.”

Activists tried to stop Paschal’s from closing, but could not convince Clark Atlanta that the restaurant could make money or that there was a better place to build a dorm.

In recent weeks, activists complained about the black university shutting down a landmark that was important to many black people.

“A member of our family betrayed us. I liken it to infidelity,” City Councilman Ivory Young said.

“One day you’ll be coming by here and your grandbaby will ask, ‘Where’s Paschal’s? Why did they tear it down? Was it the Klan?’” said state Rep. Tyrone Brooks, who remembers eating at Paschal’s with King. “And you’ll have to look your grandbaby in the eye and say, ‘No, grandbaby, it wasn’t the Klan.’ … It wasn’t a white man. It was us.’”

Curtis Thrasher Jr. saved his disgust for the people who showed up yesterday before the closing.

“Now all at once, now that Paschal’s is going out of business, they’re showing their love of the restaurant,” said Mr. Thrasher, who ate there a few times a month for more than 15 years. “If they had been coming all along, we wouldn’t be in this situation.”

Brothers James and Robert Paschal opened the diner in 1947, starting with a smaller luncheonette across the street. They often posted bail for arrested civil rights demonstrators, served free meals and stayed open late so families had a place to greet relatives when they got out of jail.

The brothers have since opened three other Paschal’s restaurants in Atlanta.

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