Family, State Fair of Texas remember pioneering vendor

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by JASON WHITELY

Bio | Email | Follow: @jasonwhitely

WFAA

Posted on September 22, 2011 at 10:44 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 15 at 1:22 AM

DALLAS - The black and white pictures reveal Huey Nash's pride, but his drive is something the camera couldn't capture.

"He wanted a piece of the pie and he had it for countless years," explained Ken Nash, Huey's son.

The elder Nash was better known in the community, and at the State Fair of Texas, as 'Little Bob.'

His barbecue bologna sandwiches have been a staple for years at the fair.

But his legacy there began in 1964 when he became the first African-American vendor given permission to open a booth.

"He had gone out there for several years," his son Ken said, "and saw the amount of business being generated and said 'Well, wait a minute. Here's an opportunity.' Instead of him saying, 'Let me shy away from it,' he said 'Let me take it on!'"

Success wasn't always easy.

Early on, while living in a public housing project with his wife and four children, Nash worked three jobs to save $800 so he could open his first barbecue restaurant on Lamar Avenue in South Dallas.

"It burned down," Ken said. "He was just learning, just making mistakes. The school of hard knocks. He let a smoker get too hot."

Nash went on to have several barbecue restaurants including the current location at Loop 12 and Ledbetter Drive in Oak Cliff.

But three years ago, doctors diagnosed Mr. Nash with congestive heart failure. Turns out, his son said, the health problem was caused by poor ventilation in his barbecue smokehouse.

At the fairgrounds, organizers remember him as a pioneer and a constant figure there.

"You would see him walking around with that red apron on," said Melanie Linnear, supervisor, State Fair of Texas. "He was a cowboy! He always had on that plaid shirt and that red apron."

Today, Linnear said half of the 74 food vendors at the fair are African-American.

When it opens next week, though, it will do so without Mr. Nash.

At 76, his heart finally gave out on Tuesday.

But his children are making sure 'Little Bob's' doesn't die.

They have done most of the work at the fair the last few years while Nash oversees the operation.

Ken said they will continue to operate the barbecue booth and Oak Cliff restaurant. In addition, he said, the family has plans to open more restaurants in the future.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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