Douglas Fincher Jr. remembered as barbecue giant

adrury@macon.comMay 13, 2013 

Finchers

Doug Fincher Jr. places a ham on the smoker at Fincher’s Barbecue on Houston Avenue in this 2010 file photo.

JASON VORHEES — jvorhees@macon.com

Douglas “Big Doug” Fincher Jr., whose Macon-based barbecue has been featured on national television networks and sent into space on two NASA missions, died early Sunday at the age of 66.

“He was the barbecue man,” his son Jake Fincher said. “He loved people, and he loved Fincher’s Barbecue.”

Barbecue had been in Douglas Fincher’s blood from the very beginning.

When Douglas Fincher was born Feb. 16, 1947, Fincher’s Barbecue already had been serving up barbecue plates about a dozen years. He learned the art of smoking pork and getting the sauce just right from his father, Douglas “Dude” Fincher, who opened the original restaurant on Macon’s Houston Avenue in 1935 in the midst of the Great Depression.

In 1968, after attending Georgia Southern University, Douglas Fincher returned to Macon, and he and his sister, Mollie, took the reins of the business from their father.

In short order, they opened a second location on Gray Highway and a decade later expanded into Warner Robins on North Davis Drive. In recent years, Jake and his brother Doug III opened a fourth spot, this time on Houston Road.

The original Houston Avenue location will be closed for the day Tuesday in honor of Fincher, but the other locations will remain open.

Over the decades, Fincher’s Barbecue has remained one of the most popular barbecue joints in Middle Georgia.

The secret to the business’ success, though, isn’t the sauce (the recipe is a family secret), Jake Fincher said, but instead his father’s personal mantra: “You treat people like family, and they’ll come back to you.”

Among the biggest fans of Fincher’s Barbecue was astronaut Sonny Carter. Nearly a quarter-century ago, Fincher’s reached new heights when the barbecue was taken into space aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery on Nov. 22, 1989.

Earlier that year, Fincher and Carter attended a Lanier High School class reunion and joked about Carter taking Fincher’s on a space mission with him.

“A couple of months later, we got a call from NASA in Houston (Texas), asking to ship them barbecue,” Jake Fincher recalled.

The motto of Fincher’s Barbecue soon became “First in Space, Best in Taste!”

The barbecue went into space a second time for a more somber occasion: in memory of Carter, who died in an April 5, 1991, airplane crash in Brunswick.

During the years, Fincher’s Barbecue has been featured on TV’s Food Network and Turner South as well as in the pages of Southern Living and The New York Times.

“We’ve fed Congress, and we’ve fed presidents,” including Jimmy Carter, Jake Fincher said.

The acclaim never changed Douglas Fincher, though.

“It didn’t faze him at all,” his son said. “It was nothing to him; it was a product of his work.”

The family is receiving friends at 2 p.m. Tuesday, followed by the funeral service at 3 p.m. at Macon Memorial Park Funeral Home.

The Rev. Jarred Hammet, pastor of Northminster Presbyterian Church and one of the service’s speakers, said his own daughter chose Fincher’s Barbecue as the place where she wanted to eat after graduating from Middle Georgia State College on Friday.

“I saw Big Doug (that day). He was leaving from Fincher’s,” said Hammet, who was his pastor.

“He said he wasn’t feeling well, and he said he needed some relief. He has that now.”

Fincher’s survivors include his wife, Alice; his two sons and six grandchildren.

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