Founding Father: Rev. Herman McCray Jr.
Rev. Herman C. McCray, Jr., founded McCray’s Backyard Bar-B-Q in Riviera Beach after working for years with Harvey McCray at Harvey’s Barbecue on 7th Street and Tamarind in West Palm Beach.
McCray, a civil rights leader, Air Force veteran and member of the 101st Airborne Division, and assistant pastor at Greater Bethel primitive Baptist Church in Riviera Beach, graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1959 and fought to keep it from closing in 1970 when it became a middle school. As president of the Youth Recreation Association, he helped organize Young Entrepreneurs to teach business to students at Suncoast High School.
McCray became the first supervisor of sanitation for the city of Riviera Beach, the first African-American to hold that post in the state of Florida. He also became the first African-American to work as a ticket agent for the Greyhound bus company.
McCray opened a family barbecue restaurant where he helped the homeless, elderly, and disadvantaged with free meals.
His contributions in both business and the community reached the halls of Congress in Washington when Rep. Kendrick Meek called McCray a “humble servant” and “driving force in the fight for civil and equal rights for citizens in Palm Beach County.
Palm Beach County Commissioners honored McCray by dedicating a bridge on Congress Avenue, connecting West Palm Beach with Riviera Beach, in 2010. The sign on the bridge reads, “Herman C. McCray Jr. Bridge – A true bridge builder.” The Congress Avenue Bridge wasn’t dedicated for his tasty ribs, but for his tireless efforts to fight for civil rights.
McCray died on April 16, 2013, at the age of 72. His wife of 51 years, Lillian, died on July 29, 2015, at the age of 69. The family business passed on to his son, Derrick.