Earnest Griffith. From Facebook.

After 46 years pouring love and dedication into his craft as Back Country BBQ pitmaster, Earnest Griffith will hang up his apron Friday. Griffith, who’ll celebrate his 67th birthday the same day, has been receiving treatment for prostate cancer since his diagnosis last year.

Back Country will host a retirement celebration from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, and the entire community is invited.

“If you have a minute, stop by and wish Earnest well. I know it would mean the world to him,” shared Melissa Hart on Facebook. Melissa’s dad, Frank Hart, founded Back Country in 1975 and owned it until he sold the restaurant 5 years ago. Griffith has been the pitmaster since that very first day.

“My wife used to get mad at me because me and Frank had to stay the night up in Back Country BBQ every Christmas,” Griffith told Advocate in 2020. “I’ve been working since I was 16 years old. I’ve never been out of a job longer than one month.”

Griffith, well-known to generations of loyal customers, said he’s become as close as family to folks who return each week for brisket, ham and jalapeno beans.

“It’s not so much as the barbecue, it’s the people that I got to meet. I’d show up at some of my customer’s funerals, and I’d be the only Black guy there,” Griffith said. “I’m so grateful and I am so blessed by the people at Back Country BBQ. I could just smile all day when I talk about it. They’ve been so helpful for me when I found out I had this affliction.”

Back Country is at 6940 Greenville Avenue near Park Lane. You may visit Griffith’s GoFundMe page here.