Popular restaurant owner Mae Sheppard laid to rest

Filed under DAYTONA BEACH

BY JAMES HARPER
DAYTONA TIMES

Mae Sheppard, the owner of a popular restaurant in Daytona Beach, died last month.

Mrs. Sheppard and her husband, Lee, owned Sheppard’s Restaurant, which used to be located on Cypress Street, now George Engram Boulevard.

The restaurant was one of only a few in Daytona Beach that Blacks could actually go and sit down in and enjoy a meal. This was before integration in the 1950s and 1960s.  The restaurant was open for 27 years.

Mrs. Shepperd died July 8 at age 92.

Arthur Harper, who worked as a cook and later headwaiter at the then segregated Morrison’s Cafeteria, remembers eating at Sheppard’s. Even though he worked at a restaurant, the Black help was not allowed to eat in the restaurant or eat the food they served on the line.

“We could go to Sheppard’s. It was the best restaurant in town. It was classy,” said Harper, who said he took his wife, Ann ,often to Sheppard’s up until Blacks were allowed to patronize where he worked. He still continued to patronize Sheppard’s.

Beef stew, chitterlings popular menu items
Dorothy Colbert, niece of the Sheppard’s, remembers moving to Daytona Beach in July 1960 to work for her aunt at the restaurant.

Colbert said the restaurant was always busy, especially when Bethune-Cookman College students were in town.

“The beef stew and the chitterlings were two of the most popular items on the menu,” Colbert recalled. “People would be lined up outside just to come into the restaurant to eat.’’

Fed patrons without money
Colbert said her aunt and uncle also helped feed people who didn’t have enough money.

“She always had a smile. She would talk to everyone that came in there. People would come in hungry. She allowed them to pay her when they got paid,” concluded Colbert.

Ronald Mayhew also remembers working at the restaurant, acknowledging he did everything but cook.

Mayhew said had it not been for his job at the restaurant he might have not been able to complete his education.

“They literally sent me to college.” said Mayhew who worked there while attending Bethune-Cookman College (now Univeristy).

He left the restaurant in 1962 to become a teacher in Flagler County.

“God used them (the Sheppards) as an instrument helping me reach my goal,” continued Mayhew.
Mayhew remembers Mrs. Sheppard as a sharing and caring person.

He said many times “Drunks’’ would come in hungry and she fed them even if they had no money.

“She would give up right for wrong. She had a lot of patience for people in need,” he added.

Fed students, performers
Mayhew said the Sheppards also fed a number of college students who didn’t have a meal ticket, which allowed them to eat on campus.  She would work out an arrangement with the students’ parents, Mayhew noted.

Mayhew also remembers the restaurant being the spot for famous Blacks who came to town because they weren’t allowed to eat in the White-owned establishments, some which they performed in.

Mayhew said among the famous coming to the restaurant were the Ink Spots, Dee Dee Clark and Ben E. King.

Dr. Walter Fordham, a professor at Bethune-Cookman, said what he liked about the restaurant is that the workers put extra food on your plate without patrons having to ask.

Fordham said he loved the seasoning of the collard greens and the quality of the cornbread.

“They had the best prepared food where African-Americans could go to eat,” he concluded.

Born in Georgia, service on July 14
Mae Sheppard was born in Mitchell County, Ga., on Nov. 14, 1919, to the late Robert and Marie Moore Gaines. She attended public schools in Camilla, Ga.

At age 21, she moved to Daytona Beach and became a member of Greater Friendship Baptist Church. She served her church as an usher, Sunday school teacher, president of the Deaconess Ministry and president of the Circle Seven ministry.

Her parents, husband, four sisters and three brothers preceded Mrs. Sheppard in death. She was married to Lee Sheppard for over 60 years.

She is survived by one son, Leroy Sheppard and one daughter-in-law, Fannie Sheppard of Daytona Beach; sisters, Annie Ruth Toombs, Camilla, Ga. and Robbie (Eddie) Lumpkins, Youngstown, Ohio; one brother, Benjamin Gaines, Detroit; grandchildren and great-grandchildren along with a host of other relatives.

Mrs. Sheppard’s funeral took place July 14 at Greater Friendship Baptist Church.

She was laid to rest at Daytona Memorial Park. Herbert Thompson Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.

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